When communicating online, your vocabulary and the quality of your writing are a key part of the first (and second) impression you make. It’s important to be able to communicate clearly and come across as an intelligent human being, whether you’re just posting a quick tweet, applying for a freelance (or full-time) job, or even using a dating website.
Free website Vocabulary.com says it can help you improve your vocabulary by figuring out which words you don’t know, and then teaching you only those (without spending time on stuff you already know).
The first thing you’ll see on the site is a multiple-choice test aimed to assess your current vocabulary. Here’s what happens once you click one of the answers for a question:
That’s just the first question. Now let’s see what happens when you pick a wrong answer:
And let’s get the second one wrong, too:
And now let’s be totally dumb and get even the third shot wrong:
Okay, that doesn’t leave many options. Let’s pick the last one remaining:
“You’re a genius!“…..uh, right. False flattery aside, the site now provides you with a complete definition for the correct word, including a nice derivation (word origin). You can see it to the right of the main interface in the screenshot above. It comes from the dictionary integrated into the website, which we’ll get to in a moment. Once you’re done reading, click the “Next Question” button to continue the assessment.
There are also other types of questions:
As you can see, the question above doesn’t make you complete a sentence, but just pick the correct definition for a word.
Once you finish the first round, the site suggests you log in, either using Facebook or by creating a new account on the site itself:
Since I don’t have a Facebook account, I created an account on the site itself.
Some of the answers to the test can be a bit weird, because they use synonyms. Here’s an example for a particularly odd one:
While I agree “luxuriant” doesn’t mean “enhanced”, it certainly doesn’t mean “riotous” under any normal definition of the word. Sure, there is a definition that says “growing in extreme abundance“, but that’s a very rare definition of the word. So effectively, the game is asking you to define one rare word with another rare word, and they don’t exactly match in shades of meaning. Fortunately, most of the definitions do make sense.
Since we’re already speaking of definitions, now would be a good time to look at the integrated dictionary. Let’s look up the applicable definition for riotous:
Some of the definitions in the dictionary are very short. Personally, I prefer more comprehensive definitions, but these snappy and short definitions might help some people memorize the words better. There’s also an interesting usage meter and examples:
So you can see related words from the same family (not synonyms, though – those are shown under each definition), along with their frequency. Note that the meter isn’t perfect: In the screenshot above, “Riotous” appears twice for some reason.
Also, not all definitions are so short. Here’s an absolutely brilliant definition for “toady”, including a memorable word history:
I think that’s just fantastic, and many of the difficult words do have such in-depth definitions, which are written in a fun, easy-to-understand style.
Once you continue with the challenge a bit more, you’ll get to check out your progress:
There are also achievements you can unlock:
As you continue answering questions, pretty soon you start getting “review” questions with words you’ve already seen (and gave wrong answers for):
As you can see, each review question is worth only 75 points, as opposed to 100 points for an “assessment” question (containing a word the game hasn’t asked you about yet).
That’s pretty much all there is to it. The site provides you with a lovely opportunity to learn new words, both by looking up words you already know you want to learn (in the dictionary) and by randomly stumbling upon new words in the questions. The only thing I would improve is the quality of some of the questions – I feel they could sometimes stand a bit more depth. Still, I feel it really manages to make learning into a game.
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