How to Remember New Words   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

Two steps will help you remember new words and add them to your college vocabulary: practicing and building. To become comfortable with the new word, practice using the word in your writing, in your speaking, and in your everyday thoughts. Thinking about new words helps you to remember them. Just memorizing lists of words is not very effective. In order for a word to really become a part of your vocabulary, you have to see it used or hear it used in several different ways over a period of time. When you come across a new word you should ask yourself, "Have I seen this word before, have I heard someone use this word before?" Sound the word out and pronounce it to yourself.

People with poor vocabularies tend to ignore words they donít know. They just skip over them as if they do not exist. People with good vocabularies, however, are curious about words they do not know. They practice the strategies mentioned above of sounding the word out, asking themselves if they have heard it before and then thinking about the word. They may even use a dictionary to look the word up. It is also beneficial to build a personal vocabulary file that will help you keep up with the new words while you practice them. On an index card, write the word and its meaning, a sentence in which you use the word correctly, and variations of the word.

The following guidelines will help you remember new words:

  1. Practice writing the word and its definition often.

  2. Practice saying the word. Use the pronunciation key in your dictionary to learn the correct pronunciation.
  3. Try to learn the word and its meaning the first time you see it.
  4. Make vocabulary flip cards from index cards. Write the word on one side and the meaning on the other.
  5. Make up a sentence you can understand using the word correctly.
  6. Vary the word: try to make it plural, to change the tense, to add -ly.
  7. Practice the word in conversation, being sure to pronounce it correctly.
  8. Use the word in writing assignments as often as possible.
  9. Repeat the word many times in your mind.
  10. Study a few words each day for several days to firmly learn them. Donít overload yourself with too long a word list.
  11. Notice the words used by teachers, public speakers, people on TV, etc. If they know these words, why donít you?