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 wasnt a single exception. Does that or doesnt
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? Lets 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 persons
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? Whats going on here?
Lets look at it this way: When you
were young, you didnt know the definitions of very many
words, so you didnt 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 dont know, youll
often miss more of whats being said than that one word.
The word is part of a sentence that you wont completely
understand. The sentence is part of a paragraph. One unknown
word can create a small gap in your understanding of the entire
The most obvious way to prevent that gap
is to always look up a word you dont know. The bad news
is that you cant really do that while listening to a lecture
and most people dont like interrupting themselves when
theyre reading to stop and look up a word. I know I dont.
So the word doesnt 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
1. When you read a word you arent
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
To increase your vocabulary:
Look up words, listen to vocabulary tapes,
and use vocabulary flash cards.
added, supplemental, additional
falciform: in the shape of a sickle, curved
vespertine: pertaining to the evening
Websters New Universal Unabridged