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Improve Your Vocabulary in Five Minutes a Day

Have you, like, noticed how we are, like, a nation of idiots when it comes to vocabulary? American grammar is being butchered as speech patterns from popular culture make their way into our everyday conversations. The word like is inserted into every sentence. The phrase ya know what I’m saying? ends every statement. Amazing is used to describe everything from Einstein’s theory of relativity to the outfit you wore to work yesterday. Where are our thesauruses, people? We are knee-deep in the information age, and yet our vocabulary seems to have shrunk overnight.

There are over 200,000 words in the English language, yet the average sixteen-year-old uses only 10,000–12,000 words and 20,000–25,000 for a college graduate. That’s where many people stop learning. After graduation, they rarely think of expanding their vocabulary, or at least changing it up a bit.

Here are a few suggestions to help you change that:

Notice over the course of a few days which adjectives you use in your everyday speech. Then take five minutes out of your day to open the thesaurus tool on your computer and pick some synonyms for the words you use most often. Interesting and intelligent people pepper their conversation with vividly descriptive words instead of the oft used “awesome” or “sic.”

For example: 

Instead of



astonishing, astounding, miraculous, surprising, staggering


overwhelming, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, tremendous, remarkable


appalling, dreadful, horrific, ghastly


colossal, immense, monstrous, humongous


find irresistible, adore, worship, fancy

Keep a dictionary handy and open it at random as a time-filler when you’re in line, or traffic, or waiting to pick up the kids. Pick a few new words every week and try to incorporate them into you speech.

Check out word-a-day calendars or websites such as Two minutes a day is all it takes to learn a new word.

Drop the over used clichés such as at the end of the day, think outside the box, and like, you know. Think about what you really mean when you insert those autopilot phrases into your speech and consider making your point in a more precise or original way.

Instead of the popular, yet immature filler words like and ya know, stick with the classics um and uh.

Our vocabulary, like our clothes speaks volumes about who we are. Consider the amount of time you spend on how you look and invest a little more time on how you speak; five minutes a day is all it takes. It’s a valuable investment that will always pay off.