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This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.


AS ONE CLASS GRADUATED from a large university, a group of researchers gave them an English vocabulary test and then tracked those people for twenty years. Strange as it may seem, those who knew the definitions of the most words were in the highest income group twenty years later. The researchers discovered that the people who, in the beginning, had the worst vocabulary scores were in the lowest income group twenty years later. There wasn’t a single exception. Does that or doesn’t that strike you as utterly astounding?

Could this really be true? And can we extrapolate the conclusion that if you started now and increased your vocabulary, your efforts could eventually put you in a higher income group than you would have been in otherwise? Let’s look further.

In another study, the executive and supervisory personnel of thirty-nine manufacturing plants were given extensive testing. All of them, from the lowest level of supervisor to the top of the executive elite rated higher than average on leadership qualities. Between all the leaders, there was a close similarity in leadership ability. But there were striking differences on the vocabulary test. Basically, the higher the person’s score on the vocabulary test, the higher their position in that company. The presidents and vice presidents of the companies had an average score of 236 (a perfect score was 272). The average score for superintendents was 140. Foremen averaged 114.

Why? What’s going on here?

Let’s look at it this way: When you were young, you didn’t know the definitions of very many words, so you didn’t understand much of what people around you were saying. As you learned more words, your understanding grew. Knowing the definition of even one more word makes a difference because if there is only one word you don’t know, you’ll often miss more of what’s being said than that one word. The word is part of a sentence that you won’t completely understand. The sentence is part of a paragraph. One unknown word can create a small gap in your understanding of the entire subject.

The most obvious way to prevent that gap is to always look up a word you don’t know. The bad news is that you can’t really do that while listening to a lecture and most people don’t like interrupting themselves when they’re reading to stop and look up a word. I know I don’t. So the word doesn’t get looked up, and some of the ideas are only partially understood because of it. The larger your vocabulary, the less that happens and the more you understand what you read and hear.

The good news is that after you know a word, you are more likely to understand any sentence with that word in it for the rest of your life. Any effort you make to increase the number of definitions you know will have a far-reaching and long-lasting effect. Here are three ways you can improve your vocabulary:

1. When you read a word you aren’t sure of, look it up. Then create two or three sentences with that word in it. Using the word in your own self-created sentence is the quickest way to cement that word in your memory.

2. Get vocabulary tapes for your car and listen to them while driving, speaking the words out loud (it makes it easier to remember how to pronounce them).

3. Buy or make vocabulary flash cards and keep some in your pocket to test yourself in spare moments — while waiting in line, for example. You can pick one every morning and carry the card with you to work, trying to use that word in several sentences that day.

TAKE THESE THREE steps and, in an adscititious manner, you may just see your income go from a flat line to an upwardly pointing falciform in the vespertine years of your life. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words may get you a promotion.


To increase your vocabulary:
Look up words, listen to vocabulary tapes,
and use vocabulary flash cards.


adscititious: added, supplemental, additional
falciform: in the shape of a sickle, curved
vespertine: pertaining to the evening

— Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary

This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

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Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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