You Need a Good Vocabulary to Succeed in Business (and Life)


Career Success

Want to be successful? Do what successful people do!

The great entrepreneurial and motivational coaches Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy continually stress the importance of emulating successful people. The idea is simple: if you can do what successful people do, you can achieve the same success.

In that same vein, studies at the Human Engineering Lab tracked thousands of successful people from all fields, industries, and disciplines. The goal was to uncover the traits that successful people share.

There was only one common trait that was consistent with successful people: they have all acquired a large vocabulary.

One expert, the President of Harvard’s Human Engineering Lab, Johnson O’Connor, addressed the question, Why do large vocabularies characterize executives and outstanding men and women?

“The final answer” O’Connor said, “seems to be that words are the instruments, by means of which, men and women grasp the thoughts of others and which they do much of their own thinking. They are the tools of thought.

‘Words are the tools of thought’ is a self-evident, but poignant observation–especially considering what neuroscientists have recently discovered about the brain, and how the brain uses words to think and, in turn, solve problems, innovate and create.

There are dozens more similar studies that prove a direct link between vocabulary size and success. Here are a few of the more notable ones:

4 Examples of Vocabulary Driving Success

  1. Vocabulary and becoming an executive

The Human Engineering Lab and the Stevens institute administered vocabulary tests to 100 professionals in line for top company executive positions. Five years later, and without exception, all of those who passed the test in the upper 10 percent had achieved executive positions. Likewise, not a single one of the group scoring in the lower 25 percent had become an executive.

  1. Vocabulary and rank on the corporate Ladder

A Johnson O’Connor Institute Study tested managers at 39 different companies. Vocabulary test scores correlated directly with existing rankings on the corporate ladder. Top executives had the highest average score (236); middle managers were in the middle range (140), and lower managers achieved the lowest average scores (89).

  1. Vocabulary and Income Potential

A 1999 study by New York economist Sanders Korenman and Harvard Sociology professor Christopher Winship established a direct correlation between scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test and future income.  The study found that as scores increased, the person’s future income increased significantly.

  1. Vocabulary and Income, title and status.

A recent study conducted by Discover Magazine, found a direct correlation between the size of a person’s vocabulary and their financial success (Income, Title, and Status).


The research is conclusive: if you want to reach the pinnacle of success in your career, you must develop a vocabulary that matches the success you desire.

It is never too late to build a high-level vocabulary to advance your career.

The Johnson O’Connor institute also discovered that a person’s vocabulary, unlike mechanical or mathematical skills, is not innate – meaning the potential for vocabulary learning is unlimited. We can improve our vocabulary at any stage in life. This is why the Johnson O’Connor institute, a leader in human performance and aptitude testing, advocates vocabulary training as a principal way to unlock human potential…and rapid career advancement.

Vocabulary and Your Career

Let’s take a deeper look at how improving your vocabulary specifically benefits your career:

Communication skills: Communication is at the heart of most job requirements. Possessing a strong vocabulary is critical to reading, writing and all verbal communication skills. Studies show that a whopping 93 percent of employers are seeking employees who can think critically and communicate clearly.

IQ, Intelligence & Critical Thinking: As you improve your vocabulary, your brain changes – it becomes better at processing information, and you begin to think faster and smarter. Your mind becomes better at problem-solving and critical thinking.  There is an undeniable link between vocabulary and IQ. But there is much more to it than the size of your vocabulary and your IQ score.

Reading Comprehension: Having a large enough vocabulary to comprehend common prose and specialized vocabulary is crucial in a huge variety of industries. This applies not only to doctors, lawyers or journalists, but also it matters in construction and retail, teaching and tax preparation, hospitality, and real estate, to name a few. The level of reading comprehension – and thus your effectiveness at work – is directly related to your vocabulary.

Good Writing Skills: Studies show that 73 percent of companies look for candidates with strong writing skills. If you have a larger vocabulary, you can convey your ideas in a more precise and eloquent way. Knowing more words makes you a better writer for obvious reasons: you have access to a far greater wealth of options for expressing any one idea.

Increased Confidence: By improving your vocabulary you will experience a boost in your confidence that you and the people around you will notice. You will feel more comfortable contributing to meetings and delivering presentations.

Improving Your Vocabulary, One Passive Word at a Time

Many people know words without ever using them in everyday speech or writing. This is known as your “passive vocabulary.” Believe it or not, it’s actually a relatively simple matter to move words in your passive vocabulary over to your “active vocabulary,” so that you can use them in your work discussions and while drafting emails, reports and other business correspondence.

That is precisely what we do at Vocabulary Zone.  We help you transfer the knowledge you already have into an active arena where you can actually make use of it. As for brand-new words, you can learn those easily, too. Our lessons are simple and designed to easily fit into your daily routine.

It’s never too late to begin improving your vocabulary, reading, writing and communication.

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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