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The Value of Your Vocabulary

Congratulations! You’ve made it past middle school. For some of you, that means those pesky secondary school admissions tests are long behind you. You may also have even heard your older siblings or friends talk about the fact that there are no vocabulary questions on the SAT or ACT. Excellent! This certainly means you can ditch those word-learning tools like flashcards, Quizlet, Membean, and the like. Right? 

Well, not so fast.

As you may have heard teachers or parents say before, “Will it be on the test?” is not the only reason to care about learning something. Hopefully, your experience building your vocabulary so far has not been utterly devoid of accomplishment. Beyond having more confidence for standardized tests, you probably experienced some other benefits to a richer word bank. Perhaps reading assignments have been a little easier to navigate. Maybe you understood more lines from a musician you follow. Heaven forbid, maybe a joke Mom or Dad shared made a little more sense or might have even been funny on a different level. There is more than one reason to refrain from casting aside the useful habits and hard-won knowledge just because it is not “required.”

Your Story

As you progress in your education and beyond, you will be called upon again and again to describe yourself and to tell your story. Having a stronger vocabulary will not only make this easier, it will also allow you to give a clearer picture of who you are to future employers, new teammates, and potential friends or significant others. With more words under your belt, you can more clearly share your story. Imagine an artist with only two or three colors on their palette or a musician who can only play a fraction of the notes. The more robust your word bank, the better able you will be to tell your story. People listening to you or reading your explanation will be able to see the picture you’re painting, better visualize what you’ve experienced, and actually imagine themselves in your shoes. Knowing more words allows you to be more precise in your language. More precise language is more powerful language. Having more command of the language will allow you to express your reality more effectively.

Your Side

Have you ever tried to convince your parents to let you go on a trip with your friends, buy the newest thing, or simply let you stay up a little later? After a fairly early age, it is no longer satisfactory to just cry, “Aw, Mom!” in hopes of getting your way. Words enable us to explain our cause more clearly, forcefully, and convincingly than even the most charming smile. If you want to improve your average for getting your way, build a stronger vocabulary.

In addition to relevant facts, your position usually will be perceived as more thoughtful and worthy of consideration if it is stated in a more eloquent fashion. You may be called upon to persuade friends, classmates, teammates, co-workers, merchants, strangers, and one day, employees or constituents. If you’ve ever dealt with a school or other organizational bureaucracy, you already know that you can get further with thoughtfully worded communication than simply with an emotional appeal. Knowing the right words will allow you to be heard, while those who use shouts, insults, or sarcasm won’t get the opportunity to plead their case. 

Your Reputation

You are about to begin amassing an ever-growing written history. You will be creating more essays, research papers, summaries, reports, resumes, and requests for people to review. Most of these people are not yet in your personal fan club. Most likely, you will not be present when your material is reviewed. Fair or not, you will be judged, at least partially, by your written record. Having a more varied knowledge of words will help you leave a better impression than someone whose presentation comes off as relatively simple or more repetitive.

Hopefully, we have done a good job convincing you to continue to learn more words. You’ve already begun building this habit. It will take less work to keep a modest daily routine going (vocab after dinner, reading before bed) than it will to try to start a new one once this exciting year really gets moving.

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