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How to Improve your Vocabulary

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You can improve your vocabulary by creating your own personal dictionary or card system.

If you have any suggestions or questions, please fill in a feedback form or e-mail the Webmaster.

Why should I write my own personal dictionary/vocabulary book?

It is faster. See below:

How will it save me time?

Using your own dictionary is faster because:

Show me an example

Here are example pages for:

A Noun

Word: 'Fluke'

meaning: something good that happens by accident and good luck
(It also means a whale's tail, but this is a rare and technical meaning.)
Sketch of a fluke: a whale's tail

Example: 'The goal was a total fluke, the ball went between the goalkeeper's legs.'

Pronunciation: /flu:k/ Grammar: countable noun. Plurals are unusual, but grammatically possible; e.g. "Their goals were all flukes, but ours were skillful!"

An Expression

'It's raining cats and dogs.'

Meaning: It's raining heavily. Note: This expression is a bit old-fashioned, it is not used much nowadays. A modern equivalent is "It's pouring."

An Adjective

Word: 'bad'

Pronunciation: /będ/ Note: In late 1990s British English teenager slang, 'It's bad!' means 'It's very good.'

An Adverb

Word: 'badly'

Meaning: adverb of 'bad'

Pronunciation: /będli/

  • 'He did very badly in his test, so he will have to study the material again.'
  • 'This is a badly-written assignment.'

An Idiom

'to swallow the dictionary' / 'to swallow a dictionary'

Meaning: to use long and unnecessarily complicated words and expressions, especially in normal conversation.

Example: "He talks like he has swallowed a dictionary, I can't understand half of what he says."

Using a card system

A card system is the same as a personal dictionary / vocabulary notebook, but each entry is on a separate card. This means you can order the cards into 3 sections:

As you learn more vocabulary from the cards, you can move them from Section One to Section Two, and then to Section Three.

Here is an example card:

Front of the Card Back of the Card

Once in a blue moon.


Expression meaning 'extremely rarely'.

Example: "He smiles once in a blue moon."

Why? The moon is very rarely blue.

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Different 'parts of speech' (noun/adjective/verb/adverb etc.) for the same headword

Noun Adjective Verb
(contains 'e' or 'ee', not 'oo'; e.g. 'I am bleeding.', not 'I am blooding.')
blood bloody
future simple:
present simple:
present continuous:
present perfect:
past simple:
to bleed
it will bleed
it bleeds
it is bleeding
it has bled
it bled

Writing your own computer dictionary / vocabulary notebook


  1. So that you can tell the computer to find the word, you don't have to waste time looking it up.
  2. So that you don't have to write it by hand, copy and paste the text and pictures into your dictionary from other documents on your computer or on the Internet, for example from the Virtual Language Centre's Lexicon, or on-line dictionaries.
  3. The more you think about the words you are learning, the better you will remember them.

There are 3 main ways to write your own computer dictionary:

  1. Using a word-processor program:
    Put all of your dictionary in one word-processing document, and use the 'Find' menu option (Control-F) in the 'Edit' menu to find the word you are looking for. If your dictionary is very big you can put the entries in more than one document, grouped together in a 'dictionary' directory/folder, and then search all the files/documents in that directory/folder using a file manager program or the search function of the 'Open' dialogue box in your word-processor.
    For example, fill in the 'Text or Property:' box near the bottom, then press the 'Find Now' button in the bottom left-hand corner. See the picture below:

Picture of where to find the search function in the open dialogue box of a word processor.

      2. Using the Internet:

  • Write a page for each word, and hyperlink the pages together. Write indexes that link to words in categories that you want; e.g. words from your academic course, or words that you want to revise. You can save your files on your own hard drive, or on a free public Internet page server such as Geocities, Xoom or Tripod.
  •      3. Using a database program:

  • Put each word as a different entry in the database, then search for the word you want.