Peggy Bechko: Kickstarting That Writer’s Vocabulary

Peggys Books shelvedby Peggy Bechko

You write. A lot. You plant the seed and spin a story, but perhaps you have a hard time choosing just the right word. A writer needs words like one lost in the desert needs water. And we hear so much about vocabulary, how broad it must be, what words to choose, how to turn a great phrase. So, in hopes of helping you cultivate that ever expanding vocabulary, here are a few tips and some helpful resources.

First the obvious. One of the best ways to expand your vocabulary is by reading. Read everything. Novels, non-fiction, newspapers, magazine articles, labels! All will help you to improve your own vocabulary. Hopefully in addition to simply reading for entertainment you, as a writer, are permitted to do only occasionally) you’re making note of words you don’t know as you read, and sooner or later looking them up in the dictionary. Good idea! (Sooner’s better than later by the way.)

Want to build your vocabulary a fun and helpful way? Then check out You answer multiple-choice questions regarding word meanings and at the same time you donate rice to help relieve hunger. A great site. Fun and broadening. Broaden your vocabulary and help feed people; a great combination.

Here’s a more scholarly site. If you’re serious about ‘boning’ up on your vocabulary, this could well be the site for you. It offers tests that are divided by grade up to ‘Senior’ – which might be the level you want to begin at. Units which become progressively more difficult are offered and you’re retested on words you get wrong. Best. Of all, it’s free.

A Thesaurus is key to helping you word build. There are lots of them free on the web. There’s also the online Visual Thesaurus at . It has an initial free trial period, and then if you find you’re making a lot of use of it, a charge of $2.95 a month or $19.95 a year kicks in. Certainly worth exploring and seeing for yourself. Or you might like the digital (Kindle) edition of Word Power Made Easy – the Complete Three Week Vocabulary Builder. Get it at your local bookstore or online at Amazon at

Looking for a helpful, hold in your hand, hard copy book you might find useful? Then check out Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis. A great vocabulary study book. Your library might have it. Online it’s a bit over $11.00

You can try Bringing Words To Life by Isabel L. Beck. A more expensive book, but a very good vocabulary builder. Again, perhaps your library, a local bookstore or online at

And now for a final note. Great writers have great vocabularies, but don’t think that means you need to rub your expertise in everyone’s face. Meaning don’t use long or unusual words all the time in your writing to show off your great vocabulary.

The fact of the matter is once you have that great vocabulary it is how you use it, not which ‘hundred dollar words’ you use. Find new ways to use words to make your story colorful and engaging. Savor words like fine wine and allow your readers to do the same. Surprise them, amuse them, find that new turn of a phrase that hasn’t been used before, choose words with punch, long or short. The secret to a great vocabulary is to learn how to engage your reader. That’s what we’re here for, right?

2 thoughts on “Peggy Bechko: Kickstarting That Writer’s Vocabulary”

  1. Peggy, with all due respect — for I, too, believe in the power of the word… However, ahhh always the “HOWEVER”… before the word comes the “STORY”, that speeding ball of make-believe that hits you square in the face, knocking you to the ground, causing you to excitedly rise to your feet, shouting, “That’s it! I got it! FADE IN:)” gs

  2. Exactly! STORY is king – the power of the word is the underpinning. The writer can tell stories simply like Hemingway or any other way. Knowledge of the word and how it’s used is up to the writer to put across STORY

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