1. MatrixGravity
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    MatrixGravity Senior Member

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    Can reading truly enhance vocabulary?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MatrixGravity, Jul 24, 2012.

    Can reading regularly truly enhance a persons vocabulary?
     
  2. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I mean, I would say so. It doesn't necesarrily enhance, unless you take the time to look up every single word you don't know. It will, however, show you the correct use of words and the specific meaning intended within the context, that way you don't choose the wrong word, when writing. Over time, the more words you see in context, the more you'll start absorbing them into your mind, with a rough idea of how they are used and what they mean, as long as you're reading actively, and not just glazing your eyes and being strictly entertained. There's nothing wrong with the latter, but now a days, I read much more studiously. I pay attention to the words used, the choice of conjunctions, the reptition or frequency of certain words, etc. My opinion: read as much as you can. But, read good work. Only read bad prose, when you're trying to get an example of what truly is bad prose, which is filled with the incorrect use of words, and verbs, and nonsensical phrases, and comparisons, that look more beautiful than are meaningful.
     
  3. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    YES...ABSOLUTELY...NO QUESTION! My Ah ha! moment for this was years ago when I had a student who never did much homework and was generally a happy B student who read voraciously. He blew EVERYONE at school out of the water on his SAT's (on the verbal section) because he aced the vocab section. (That was back in the day when you had to answer, Good is to Evil as Benign is to...?) He totally outscored the students who faithfully studied for the SAT's and took prep classes. (He did not ace my Spanish final that year, but that is another story). I would most definitely say reading helps expand your vocabulary. Read different genres both in fiction and non-fiction. If you don't know a word, or if you think you know a word from context, but are not sure, look it up. There are also great sites for increasing vocab, but reading also will help in writing.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    duh!... how can it not?

    in addition to constantly reading good writing [so the words you learn will have been used properly], the best way to expand your vocabulary is to do the ny times [or london, if you're in the uk/commonwealth] daily crossword till you can do them with a pen, in less than 30 minutes... when you get to that level, switch to book collections of the sunday ones, till you can do those in ink, in 30 minutes, or less... and then keep doing them just to keep your mind sharp and for the occasional new word you'll come across...

    another thing you should do is keep a dictionary handy at the breakfast table and in the john, for browsing...
     
  5. Blue Stasz
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    Blue Stasz Member

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    Absolutely!!! As far as I know linguists differentiate between "active" and "passive" vocabulary and reading is proven to enhance both. Of course it depends on making good reading choices. English is my second language and I really started to improve by reading - boosting my passive vocabulary - and later by being a member of Toastmasters for about 10 years - writing and speaking.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only way you can really enhance your vocabulary is through communication -- either by reading words or listening to them in context. Reading is one of the two major ways to do this. If reading doesn't increase your vocabulary, I'm wondering what else you suggest does?
     
  7. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    In all honesty, how could it be otherwise? When you read you are putting information into your head, seeing words and punctuation in proper context. For some it might not seem like the information sticks, but it is amazing how much we actually retain.

    - Darkkin
     
  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    You can't help but learn words from wide reading. I did it the lazy way for years and got meanings only out of context. Once in a while I got the wrong interpretation. I would have learned more if I'd taken the time to look up the words. Perhaps that is one of the big advantages of ebook readers - it's easier to click for a definition than to put down a paper book and get out the dictionary.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, reading enhances and expands vocabulary. This should be obvious. It even helps (lots!) if you don't bother looking every unknown word up in the dictionary - gathering meaning from context is a skill in itself, and there's no better training for this than reading.

    Another point I don't anyone in this thread has made yet is that reading shows you the words spelled out, and that helps you relate words together. You learn to tell which words share roots, and you learn to use that information to gather meaning. It also helps you learn to spell - you can tell when an unfamiliar word shares a root with a familiar one, and so you make an accurate guess as to how it's spelled. And seeing the words spelled out trains to to avoid mistakes such as using "should of" instead of "should have," etc.

    Read good prose. Read lots of it. Start young - you're doing yourself the biggest favor in the world if you develop the habit of reading constantly when you're still a preteen.
     
  10. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Stephen king wrote an essay called On Reading and Writing. He talks about how you can't write well unless you read a lot. It shows you what to do and what not to do. If you read frequently, you learn new things, new vocabulary, new ideas, thoughts, viewpoints. I think reading rounds a person out and benefits them not just with their vocabulary or writing ability, but in their whole life.
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, and keep a dictionary handy. I actually keep a notebook nearby when I'm reading , jotting down all the words or phrases
    I particularly like.

    A big vocabulary though, isn't as good or helpful to a writer as precise word use - which reading will definitely teach you.
     
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  12. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Brilliant! This should be embroidered on a pillow...
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well its been said a hundred times over, and in one hundred more ways, but yes, reading abosulutely helps enhances one's vocabulary. It isn't so much that it introduces you to new words--it does but thats not what is important. What is important is that you get the chance to see much more commonplace words used very effectively in not so ordinary ways. You get to se the use of the word: when, where, how, and how the sentences around it hint at its meaning if its not exactly clear. Reading teaches precision :) Vocabulary just gives you more options.

    The dictionary/thesurus is the tool box, books are the user manuals we writers need to be able to use them effectively :)
     
  14. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Of course it can. That's not to say it will, and that's not to say that displaying your expansive vocabulary is always enjoyable reading, but a writer with a limited vocabulary is like a composer who restricts himself to one key: he might produce something enjoyable, but his oeuvre will display a sameness of thought that is ultimately unsatisfying.

    If grammar is the mortar, words are the bricks.
     
  15. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    I always learnt that reading is an essential part of our lives. I understand why now. Some times I never realize where my vocabulary came from. Learn from how the best selling novels use simplistic words versus big, unused words. Keep reading. I count it as research.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on what you read. If all you read is facebook pages and twitter feeds, your vocabulary can become worse, because you can learn atrocious misuse of language (verbicide).

    However, if you read material of even moderate literary quality, your vocabulary will improve over time.
     
  17. MarkArellius
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    MarkArellius Member

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    Since I started reading more advanced books with a larger variety of difficult English words, I finally got my lazy ass to look up those words and it really surprised me what they mean. They can define the simpelest things and then I think to myself; ''Why the hell make such a difficult word for something so simple ?''
    Like procrastinate, hierarchy or buoyancy ??? I know they're there for a good enough reason.

    But what I do now is I write down all my favourite words and thats allot ! I look up different synonyms to create a larger variety of better descriptions for things.
    I wouldn't write; ''Did you ever think about..'' but now ''Did it ever occur to you...''
    Depending on the story and context of course, but I prefer the second sentance and they almost say the same thing, to me...

    P.S.

    When I was reading ''The Interpretation of Murder'' by Jed Rubenfeld, I reaaaaaally needed a dictionairy ! :p
    Tons of complicated words and meanings for things, that made me take an intereset into enhancing my own vocab.
     

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