Repetition: The key to retaining and using new words

By | October 16, 2011

Word of the DayRepetition is vital in anyone’s quest to develop an impressive, working vocabulary. Just because you have learned a word at some point does not mean it is going to be a tool readily available to you in your word arsenal the next time you need it.

As an illustrative example, think of a timer attached to each vocabulary word (figuratively, of course). The time on the timer represents how long it has been since you have used, heard, or read a given word. The more time that has lapsed since being exposed to the word, the less likely you are to use it. And, when I say less likely you are to use it, I mean the less likely it is that the word will come to your mind in the moment when you wish to communicate the its meaning. When you hear, read, or use a word the clock is reset to zero, making it more likely to come to your mind in the short term. Obviously, a word you learned or quickly studied that day would be on the front of your mind and ready for use.

It would be no coincidence if you were to use the word philanthropic to describe someone charitable just a day after you heard a coworker use that same word. It would also be no coincidence if dogmatic came to your mind to describe someone opinionated if you had just heard it used on the radio that morning.

Remember that it only takes using one or two educated words a day (or less) among coworkers or friends to make a lasting impression.

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