9 Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary Recall


Whether you are a prominent CEO, a new grad, or growing older in years, having a stellar vocabulary is a top priority. Despite the importance many place on being able to articulate their thoughts accurately and concisely, the average person’s vocabulary is on the decline. 

Research and educators support nine ways to improve vocabulary recall. From making connections to words to creating mnemonics to incorporating memory-building games in consistent practice, improving your vocabulary recall is important for both professional and personal growth.  

For those of you that want to expand your vocabulary and increase the ease at which you access new words, or you want to decrease those tip-of-the-tongue moments, there are a few simple ways to improve vocabulary recall. To simplify the process, we’ve created a list of the 9 ways to improve your vocabulary recall. 

Utilize Vocabulary in Proper Context 

Studies have shown that to properly learn, remember, and recall vocabulary, it needs to be learned in the correct context. When we think of increasing vocabulary, our mind can wander to a picture of someone studying the entire dictionary, cover to cover. 

Luckily, improving vocabulary doesn’t have to be that tedious. Studies show that learning vocabulary within context that you understand makes it easier to remember and recall. 

The simplest way to learn vocabulary in context is to learn it within a sentence. Rather than simply learning a word and its definition, learn the word within several different sentences so that you have a deeper understanding of how the word can be used. 

As a teacher in public schools for many years, this application of context for vocabulary is something I relied upon as a frequent language practice, regardless of the grade level I was currently teaching.

If you have children, you may have seen homework assignments in which your child uses their ‘spelling words’ in a sentence. Even though students may think of it as useless busy work, teachers have long known that this simple method helps make words more understandable for students, as well as memorable.

Studying vocabulary in its proper context is a game-changer for improving recall. When vocabulary learners rely on just the dictionary definition, important details are left out. They can result in misusing vocabulary—an embarrassing mistake whether you are writing or speaking to someone you are trying to impress. 

Surround Yourself with New Vocabulary 

When trying to increase vocabulary recall, exposure to the vocabulary is a top priority. A beneficial tactic is to expose yourself to a variety of vocabulary resources (linked to Amazon), such as: 

The more of a variety of ways you establish in your routine to build vocabulary, the better your chance of being successful is.

For example, when using sticky notes with your chosen words, which you can make yourself or buy easily, you are increasing your exposure to vocabulary you wish to learn-in a very simple, inexpensive way. You can place the notes throughout your home, office, car….and increase the frequency to new vocabulary. 

By taking words from any of these vocabulary resources and placing them on notes that you will encounter throughout the day, it encourages you to recognize them and creates an easier pathway for recalling the vocabulary later. 

How Can I Improve My Vocabulary When Speaking? 

The number one way to improve vocabulary when speaking is to practice. Like the adage says, practice makes perfect. It’s no difference with improving vocabulary when speaking.

The more familiar you are with a word, and the more you have used it in writing or speaking in the past, the more likely you are to easily access the word in conversation. 

You should first practice your new vocabulary in relaxed settings until you get used to the word and the best context for its use.  Without practice, many people can learn a massive vocabulary without ever using it in writing or speaking. 

Then be creative in your speaking opportunities. Obviously, you can utilize the words with friends or family, but also challenge yourself to incorporate the new vocabulary when speaking to clients or in encounters with others while shopping, and so on.

Charting your progress in audio or visual format is an excellent speaking option, too. You can make your own private YouTube channel or simply use the recording app on your smartphone.

Memorization is another key element for recalling vocabulary in speaking scenarios. You should memorize the vocabulary word used in a couple of phrases. Without the reference of how the word could be used in natural conversation, you’ll never be able to incorporate the new vocabulary into your everyday speaking. 

Vocabulary that is Personal is Memorable

Attaching emotions of your personal life to new vocabulary can make vocabulary recall all the easier. By connecting your new or desired vocabulary to people you know, you can more easily remember and recall the vocabulary. 

This is simple when combined with using the vocabulary in context. The sentence that you create to utilize the word within the proper context should have something to do with your own life. 

If for example, I was trying to learn the word “apricity,” meaning the warmth of the sun in the cold winter, then you could create a sentence that relates to your experience with apricity.

The days may be short, but the apricity is a joy when walking outside.  

By connecting the formerly unfamiliar vocabulary with your own emotions, the new term is familiar and connected to your life. 

Make Learning Vocabulary Fun

Similar to how we teach children to learn anything new, playing games with vocabulary can be a great way to increase: 

  • Vocabulary knowledge
  • Retention
  • Memorization
  • Recall 
  • Emotions corresponding to vocabulary 

Word games are an excellent way to combine fun with your desire to learn new vocabulary. Just like being a kid again, you can make learning fun with the excitement of games. This is easier now than ever because of all the apps and websites designed to support vocabulary knowledge. 

My students loved word games and it was such an excellent tool for test prep and building their writing skills, again, no matter their age. Some student favorites (linked to Amazon) are Banangrams, Appletters, and Pairs in Pears. And of course, a family game night favorite, also useful for building vocabulary, is Scrabble!

There are many ways to incorporate games into your daily life. Add the daily crossword to your routine, along with a game or two of Scrabble each week. These games add not only fun to your vocabulary learning, but move you closer to your vocabulary goals. 

Set a Consistent Goal 

Decide on a goal for learning vocabulary that you can really achieve. Committing to learn one new word a day will have a large and quick impact on your overall vocabulary. There are  Apps that offer a “word of the day” to help you meet your new vocabulary goal. 

By dedicating yourself to learning more vocabulary, you will be closer to your goal of improving vocabulary recall. 

Make the Thesaurus Your Best Friend

One quick way to start expanding your usage of new vocabulary is by visiting the thesaurus. Every time you sit down to write, even just an email, check your thesaurus for words that can be replaced with synonyms. 

These simple exchanges in your writing help apply different vocabulary to your normal daily activities. As you replace your normal vocabulary with up leveled synonyms, you’ll begin to learn and make recall easier. 

Create Mnemonics for Easily Remembering

It’s a well-known fact that mnemonics can be a great option for committing new information to memory. By pairing up vocabulary with mnemonic devices, the word becomes easier to remember and thus easier to recall. 

If a mnemonic device doesn’t fit the word, you can also try to connect the vocabulary to an image representing the word. For those that are more visual learners, this can be a great tactic for learning hard to remember vocabulary. 

Boost Your Brain Health

Simple steps to improve your overall brain health can have a substantial impact on vocabulary recall. Improving your brain health includes: 

  • Managing and reducing stress
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Stay mentally active
  • Get plenty of rest 

One simple starter to improving vocabulary recall is by embracing a brain healthy diet. Great foods for fueling your brain include things like: 

  • Foods high in omega3 fatty acids (Studies abound about its benefits.)
  • Whole grains
  • Foods rich in antioxidants 
  • Vitamin B rich food

These easy strategies to increase your brain health help to increase your brain’s ability to remember and recall new vocabulary. 

The Final Talking Point toWays to Improve Your Vocabulary Recall

Improving vocabulary recall is an important step, no matter your age or profession. A strong vocabulary enables you to wow people with your writing and speaking vocabulary. First impressions mean everything, which is why your vocabulary should absolutely impress. 

By taking the steps above to increase both vocabulary knowledge and recall, you’ll be on your way to impressing everyone with all your new words. No more stumbling with words on the tip of your tongue or wishing you had a more sophisticated and precise way to say what you mean.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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