In Message #513, I suggested that one of the New Year’s resolutions you should consider is to make yourself a more interesting person. And I said that one way to do that would be to develop your strength as a speaker. Yes, you understand the power of words. And, yes, you have made an effort to build a better vocabulary with ETR’s “Word to the Wise.” But memorizing a new word every day doesn’t seem to be paying off. You almost never use them in conversation and then you forget their meanings after a few weeks. Two quick and easy ways to fix that. First, memorize only one single synonym for each new word.
For example, rather than trying to remember several somewhat complex definitions for “ebullient” (“overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm or excitement,” “high spirited, bubbling up,” etc.), choose, instead, just a single synonym that you think you’d most likely use. In the case of “ebullient,” I like “enthusiastic,” because I can see myself saying “John was in an ebullient mood this morning.” Second, memorize backward. If, for example, you are reviewing your weekly vocabulary by looking at flash cards, show yourself the “enthusiastic” side of the card and guess “ebullient,” rather than the other way around.
That way, you’ll think of “ebullient” the next time you mean to say “enthusiastic.” I’m not advising you to make a habit of using $10 words when $1 ones will do. I’m showing you how to make the $10 words in “Word to the Wise” part of your active vocabulary. Once they set in (and this will happen after you’ve forced them into your conversations five or six times), you can begin to use them with more discrimination.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]