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Monday Mom challenge: Expand your vocabulary

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Dictionary as leisure reading

Words have power. Used correctly and well, they have lots and lots of power. You may have heard the phrase, "Sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never hurt me." That's not really true: words can hurt - and words can heal. Words can encourage and can words discourage. It's important to be careful and thoughtful with your words, and use the right ones.

Dictionary as leisure readingAs with everything else, it's easy to get into a rut with with the language we use. It's easy to forget about the subtle differences between words and use not quite the right one, but one you think is close enough. Maybe it's truly fine in most circumstances, but wouldn't it also be nice to have more words at your disposal so you can say exactly what you mean? Taking five minutes a day to learn a new word or two is a simple exercise that, over time, can expand your language and communication horizons dramatically.

Clever, beautiful, silly, harsh

There some fabulous words out there. Some sound like what they mean: their letter pairings and sounds seem to take on the meaning of the word. Some roll off the tongue with ease and beauty, some are hard and sharp, some are smart and sassy. Some are silly and some are exact. Words are fun.

Just sitting down with a dictionary and opening it to a page, any page, is likely to present at least one word you didn't know before, and probably more. Maybe there's a word there you do know, but it's meaning is just slightly different from what you thought. Similarly, perusing the thesaurus is another great way to think about how words are similar in meaning - yet different.

Use your new words

After you've gathered a few new words, use them. Look for ways to expand how you talk about things. Write them down, practice using them in sentences, just say them. Make your new words part of your vocabulary. If your sweetie and your kids look at your quizzically when you use your new words, just explain what the word means. Before long, they probably will be using new words, too.

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