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How Important is Your Vocabulary?

A person’s vocabulary is obviously important from the aspect of communication. About 90% of communication is actually non-verbal, but to express anything except basic ideas, vocabulary is definitely important. How important is your vocabulary to you, though?

The average American has a vocabulary of about 20,000 words. That is roughly the same for native English speakers elsewhere, too. People who read a lot usually have a vocabulary of up to 50,000 words. The typical writer has a vocabulary of around 100,000 to 150,000 words. Of course, not everyone who writes is a writer, but writers do have a larger vocabulary, usually.

It really isn’t surprising that someone who writes every day would have a larger vocabulary. What is honestly surprising is how others view people who have a large vocabulary.

Several different studies have shown that people who have and use a larger vocabulary are typically thought of as more intelligent than people who don’t. Mind you, having a large vocabulary doesn’t mean that a person is more intelligent. They are just perceived that way. That includes by employers. For example, many people felt that President Bush wasn’t very intelligent, though he actually was. That was largely because of his vocabulary. The same is true of President Trump. Obviously, having a small vocabulary has nothing to do with how intelligent a person is, but people tend to think of it that way.

On the other hand, a person who uses a word incorrectly is often thought of as less intelligent than someone who has an average vocabulary.

What do you think about your vocabulary?

  • I have found myself thinking that someone who has a large vocabulary or who uses “big words” is more intelligent than one who doesn’t.

    • True
    • False
  • I would honestly like to increase my vocabulary.

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’d like to, but I don’t have time
  • It is helpful to me to know where the word comes from or something else that is interesting about the word, in order to learn it.

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’m not interested in learning new words
  • If learning new words is important to you, how many new words do you try to learn per week?

    • No set number, just whenever I’m exposed to a new word
    • One or two
    • Three or more

What do you think?

5 points

Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. I was one of those kids who sat out on the lawn all summer reading the dictionary. When I was in 4th grade the librarians tried to talk me out of checking out Dante’s Inferno. I loved that book better back then than I do now. I think the next book I read was the Panchatantra. So naturally many of the words in my vocabulary are completely useless. But I think there is magic in them.

    • I’ve always enjoyed learning new words. My mother encouraged it. In fact, she used to leave a dictionary on the back of the toilet. She used to use it to do crossword puzzles when she was going to the bathroom. I often simply looked up new words.

      • Lucky you! My mum would come out and yank the dictionary out of my hand and tell me to stop wasting my time. I had to hide books from her. And my dad was worse. He said “No &#^@% daughter of mine is going to any ^%*$& college.” But of course I did anyway. Just not on his dime.

        • My mother encouraged us to learn and she loved math and science, so I got that from her. I had a sister who was the high school valedictorian and the other sister was a salutatorian. I was neither, but went to a larger school and was routinely on the dean’s list. I graduated high school with a 3.96 GPA. My parents didn’t put me through college and I was in my 30’s when I went but ended up with a 3.87 GPA. I figured that wasn’t too bad for an old guy who didn’t spend much time studying. lol

          • You did great. I was 40 when I got my terminal degree, but I had to study really hard to get my straight A’s. My older brothers were bright, and voracious readers, but they did not go to college, although, interestingly, they both looked up to me for having done so.

    • That makes sense. I became interested in writing because of the author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was the creator of the Tarzan series as well as the John Carter of Mars series. I was fascinated by how he could write a paragraph that was so vivid when other authors would have taken two pages to say the same thing. It was mostly through his use of vocabulary and that not only got me interested in writing, but also in vocabulary. I wrote my first novel when I was 8-years-old, though I never even tried to publish it (and no longer have a copy).

      • The authors you mentioned are great writers. In my Wordgirl fan fictions I have added some extra characters to assist the heroine and her monkey mentor to take out the bad guys based on my time growing in the former Canal Zone in Panama.

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