Academic Success

Why Improving Your Vocabulary Instantly Makes You Smarter

There are certain personal and professional advantages to appearing smarter. It’s even better when you actually are smarter. An advanced vocabulary can give a person a certain intellectual edge over people with even an average vocabulary. The more words you know, the better you will be at conveying complex thoughts or terms. The more you know, the more intelligent you are.

The question then becomes if a large, advanced vocabulary indicates that a person is intelligent, can people increase their vocabulary and become intelligent? Absolutely! The more you expand your vocabulary, the more information you can comprehend (including complex information). You will also be better able to express your own thoughts and ideas. A good vocabulary opens up countless opportunities for personal and cognitive growth.

Why vocabulary & intelligence are so closely linked

In the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, E.D. Hirsch discussed how a person’s potential to succeed or excel could be predicted by their vocabulary. He strongly believed that vocabulary was directly tied to intelligence.

Hirsch explained that the reason for the close link between vocabulary and IQ begins with what is called the working memoryWorking memory is the place in our brain where we untangle everything from crosswords to life’s difficult conundrums.

The working memory is a very small space in your brain that has an extremely limited capacity for a limited amount of time. Connections are made within that space that solidify or crystallize the information so that it can become something learned or remembered. These connections must occur if the person is going to retain the information.

If the connections are made, the information is passed on and retained as learned material. If these connections do not occur within that very brief window, the information is lost, and the person must start over.

Your brain is an incredible organ that processes information and transmits neural impulses at speeds we can’t even imagine. One common method your brain uses to make proper connections in your working memory and process incoming information is a technique that psychologist George A. Miller referred to as chunking.

While chunking may not often be consciously employed by most people, it is very apparent in our society. If you know what to look for, you’ll see it shows up everywhere. Social Security numbers and telephone numbers are examples of how the technique is utilized in the real world. By separating a string of numbers into three “chunks,” they are easier to recall. (Not coincidentally, this same technique was used when designing Vocabulary Zone).

Elements of chunking

This neurological process has four important stages:

  • Identification or acknowledgment of the material
  • Breaking longer pieces of information into smaller “chunks” makes it easier to remember.
  • The person connects with the information and it results in retention
  • The brain then processes it and holds it for longer periods of time.

Words are a remarkably effective device for chunking. One word can hold within it many words, a lengthy explanation. As long as the person has formed an association within their long-term memory, they can make the connection in a split second.

Help your brain make more connections

The more words you know, the easier it is for your brain to make the connections needed to form a thought or idea. Every word you add to your active vocabulary increases the likelihood of your brain making the necessary connections and synapses that lead to solutions, ideas, innovations, and creative expressions. Hence the reason why…


So, if you want to increase your intelligence and boost your IQ score, the first thing you need to do is work on your active vocabulary. It is one thing to know words; it is quite another to know how to use them – and use them well. When you increase your active vocabulary, your intelligence will soon follow. It has the added benefit of increasing your self-confidence and helping you feel more relaxed in social settings.


Written by Greg Ragland, President, CEO of CommEdge LLC producers of Vocabulary Zone and the corresponding Vocabulary Certifications: College Preparedness, Ph.D. Vocabulary and Executive Level Vocabulary

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