5 ways to upgrade your vocabulary without sounding like a know-it-all

You know in Clueless when Cher challenge Tai to use one big word a day? Or when Diane Court makes a dot in the dictionary next to every word she looks up in Say Anything? These are the images that came to mind when I realized Saturday was Dictionary Day. If you're tired of using the same old words (me!), here are some easy ways to get all SAT prep on yourself and upgrade that vocab.

Make it a daily habit.
Sign up for Dictionary.com's Word of the Day. They don't just give dry definitions, they give context (which your brain needs to retain the new information), like usage from literature and current events, as well as the word's origin.

Be curious.
There's nothing embarrassing about not knowing something. If we couldn't admit the limits of our knowledge, we'd never learn anything! So look up the words you don't know and ask your friends what a word they used means. And you might have to ask again and again. For instance, on a particularly pleasant girl's weekend recently, apoplectic strangely kept popping into the conversation. I had to ask twice before I remembered what it meant, but I'd be surprised and, well, apoplectic if I ever forgot its definition again.

Make it fun.
Play word games, like Bananagrams and speed Scrabble. Try crosswords and mad libs. Websites like A Game A Day have word finders, brain teasers, and puzzles. Delight in language, whether it's on the nightly news or in poetry.

Read. And not just blogs.

Words come in and out of fashion, and when we read books from another era, we're exposed to language we don't normally come across in the newspaper. Think the colorful world of Jane Austen: insouciant, reprobate, and augur. The more kinds of reading you do, whether it be science fiction or Victorian children's stories, the greater exposure you have to a variety of words.

Use it or lose it.
It's kind of like that old saying: if you hear a joke you love and don't retell it within three days, it will be lost forever. Once you learn the definition to a bright and shiny word, use it ASAP. Drop your new word in conversation if the opportunity comes up (don't force it or you risk sounding like, well, a know-it-all), or in your journal or an email.

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