My Vocabulary Over 20 Weeks: A Reflection

Hello, everyone! As I hinted at in the title of this post, I have now been tracking the trends in my vocabulary for twenty weeks now; consequently, I wanted to reflect on my experience doing so. Should I have waited until I was twenty-six weeks in, so I could make it a semi-annual ordeal? Maybe. I am quite impatient, though, and I have been looking forward to reaching twenty weeks for a while now, so I thought it would be fitting to create updates every twenty weeks. Through this reflection, I hope to let you all know of my thoughts regarding this “experiment” of mine I have pursued for twenty weeks now, and if & how I want to continue it.

One of the goals I outlined at the start of the post at hand was the following: “Specifically, I wonder if I will be able to look back on my overly used words and notice how they related to my mindset, knowledge, and experiences at those certain times in my life, which I most likely would not have noticed originally.” So, let us see if this goal has been met over the past twenty weeks!

First of all, I will admit that my post is flawed. Yes, I probably use quotation marks incorrectly in my updates, and I can not certify the selection of words is incredibly accurate, but nevertheless, I find that my tracking has been beneficial.

Now, people can change a lot over a period of twenty weeks; I mean, that is longer than an entire semester of college. I would not say that I have changed much ever since the week I started the ongoing post (which happened to be the week of the election). Even with this lack of perceived change, though, I can see that the vocabulary bank inside of my mind did slightly change over time, which I think my increased consciousness about my word choice helped with.

As for the actual process of my continuous updating of the post, I have closely followed my preliminary ideas. I believe there was only one time in which I updated a day later than I was supposed to, but besides that specific occurrence, I made sure to create a new list every Friday afternoon. (I actually set up a reminder on my phone for every Friday at 5:00 PM, which has kept me on track.) How am I able to come up with these lists, one may ask? Well, doing so has been fairly simple. After starting this journey, I soon started to naturally notice when I started to employ words ad nauseam while writing, and when I made these observations, I would quickly type them into a note on my phone dedicated to these discoveries. This note of mine is segmented by the week, and it definitely has grown over the past few months. Of course, there are weeks in which I make little to no observations naturally, and so, to develop my lists, I actively look for overused words; my blog post(s) from that week and my scholastic writing assignments are my targets of searching. Usually, while skimming through them, specific words will catch my eye that seem like ones I had used a lot, which I will search for throughout the document in order to decide if it has, in fact, been overused (thanks, Command-F).

Most of the time, my lists end up being between three and five words-long, but recently, they have generally become longer. During these times, I usually try to cut down the lists to five words, but as of late, I have allowed myself to increase the length to six words; when all of the words were so important in explaining that week, I cannot just discard them. To add more context as to why I earlier asserted that these lists I create are imperfect, I must acknowledge that picking which words to include out of a longer list can create flaws. In addition, my perception could naturally be off; for example, I fear that certain words, such as “quite,” have been so prevalent in my writing throughout this entire twenty-week journey that this excessive use has become normal, and thus, I have not felt as though this use was as unique enough to point out so many times.

Next, I do write analyses, which I had proposed at the start of the original post. Honestly, writing these has been the most difficult part of this journey. Perhaps I should not have made myself write these analyses on Friday afternoons in which I am exhausted, but I still always push through them. Anyway, I write about my lists every three weeks, which means that every few weeks, after creating my list for that week, I write about the two previous weeks. In these short paragraphs, I try to summarize why I used certain words during that period of time, and also attempt to analyze why I used that group of words as whole, or how certain words compare to others in tone and/or meaning. With these analyses, I really try to accomplish my goal of figuring out how the words I found myself utilizing during those weeks related to my observations, mindset, and knowledge at the time. In order to do so, I often have to look back through my planner and blog to see what I had written that particular week, as events from a measly two weeks prior can slip from my memory. Although it is sometimes difficult to bring myself to take the time to do these analyses, I have started to have more fun with them, and already, they are becoming interesting to look back on. Furthermore, I must note that I have noticed, and found it quite amusing, that after creating my list of words for a week in which I had to write analyses, those words were prevalent in those analyses.

As a whole, I feel as though my lists have demonstrated how I am still a bit insecure as a person, especially since I am in my first year of college. For example, I greatly used words that showed uncertainty with myself, such as “likely,” “fairly,” “may,” and “nervous,” the first two of which were used towards the beginning of the process. Recently, though, I have found that I have been employing words that show more emphasis, such as “especially” and “important”; such use is likely a combination of both my increased comfort in college and the multitude of assignments I have been given recently that encouraged me to take a stand and portray my true thoughts.

The prevalence of school in my analyses of the lists (and in the lists themselves) I have made is something that I think is very noticeable, and must be acknowledged. Most of the words in the lists I have created thus far have been related to school, and this observation was even more evident during the weeks of my winter break. Just from the week of final exams to my first week of break, my choice of words moved from ones such as “correlation” to “wonderful,” and my utilization of words with positive connotations continued until my first week of second semester, in which words such as “dreary” and “alas” became prominent. Although it may seem as though I purposely tried to make as distinct of a difference within these periods of time as possible, I can truthfully say that I did not make that effort; my diction really did change that drastically from my perspective.

The change in my word choice really does help show that school is a large part of my life and identity, and is a large influencer in my diction. Clearly, whether consciously or not, I do try to seem impressive in terms of my vocabulary in my academic assignments, and my inclination to use more advanced words does decrease when I believe I can get away with using simpler words. Also, even though the connotations of the words I chose generally were more negative during times in which school was in session, it cannot be denied that school is truly what pushes me to be a creator. Blogging was mentioned in many of the analyses of my lists, but academics were largely what motivated me to write, create and become more comfortable with my own opinions, and try to articulate my thoughts well. And for that, I am thankful; if I did not embrace how college has challenged me, I surely would not have let it impact me (and my vocabulary) as much as it has.

While creating my third list, on November 25, 2016, I was in a bit of a conundrum, in which I felt the desire to include a word in that list that I had already had incorporated in a previous one. I hesitated to include a word multiple times in my various lists, as I feared it could have both made my vocabulary bank seem even smaller to readers and also open up the opportunity for all of my upcoming lists to just become rehashes of those of previous weeks. I ended up deciding to allow myself to repeat words in my lists, and I am very glad that I did so. I cannot hide the fact that I am repetitive; it would be dishonest to do so, and it would make my post not as helpful for myself. In addition, making this decision helped me realize that my word choice truly does naturally change over time, as words that I utilized often would rotate out of my vocabulary fairly soon. Presented below are lists I compiled of what words I listed multiple times, and a quick statement regarding what time period I found myself including them in multiple lists.

Words listed twice:

  • Prevalent (two weeks in a row)
  • Experience (over three weeks)
  • Aforementioned (over five weeks)
  • Excited (over three weeks)
  • Nervous (over two weeks)
  • Important (over five weeks)
  • Particularly (over many weeks)
  • Specific (two weeks in a row)
  • Especially (over four weeks)
  • Aspects (two weeks in a row)
  • Effective (over many weeks)

Words listed three times:

  • Wonderful (over five weeks)
  • Quite (over many weeks)
  • Credible (over many weeks)

As one can see, there are eleven words that have been included in two lists, and only three that have been included in three of them (which is much less than I expected). I find it particularly interesting that these words were often included in lists in weeks that were close together; their common subsequent decrease in their use could be due to either the ending of a phase in which their employment was necessary or my active attempts to reduce my use of them.

First of all, I have found that there have been phases of sorts in my lists. With having many long-term projects in my classes, some specific words became commonplace in my writing for that reason. For example, the words “experience” and “credible” have been associated with many scholastic projects of mine, which is surely why they have been included in multiple lists of mine throughout the twenty weeks. As for more abbreviated uses of words, the word “important” was one that I used in a speech I had been working on for a few weeks, so once I gave the speech, my use of it naturally dropped off. In addition, I used the word “excited” quite a bit during my winter break, and as expected, my use of it decreased as school started once again.

On the other hand, there are some words that I have consciously tried to use less in my writing because of their prevalence in my lists. One word that perfectly demonstrates this process is “aforementioned,” which is one that I heavily relied on in my many projects last semester. The last time it was included in one of my lists was during a week in which my excessive use of it was actually pointed out to me, and even though I still enjoy incorporating the word into my writing, around that time, I actively made sure I would not become dependent on it. This conscious work to change my diction was also present in an analysis I wrote for the week of December 30, 2016, in which I wrote that I used the word “fairly” that week due to the fact that it was a synonym to the word “quite” that I had been using excessively. As shown, I can say that although the words that were subject to overuse by yours truly subsided in my writing and speaking naturally, creating lists every week has increased my awareness of my diction, and has helped me improve upon it. And let me just say, writing analyses of my lists of words has definitely made me aware of synonyms of the word “use,” such as “utilize” and “employ.”

My awareness also has incarnated itself through my decision to sign up for “Word of the Day” emails from Merriam-Webster. I was very much excited to receive these emails once I signed up, and I do love learning about a different word every day, but I must admit that incorporating these words into my everyday life has been difficult for me. Doing so would require much effort from myself, which I admittedly have not engaged in. In fact, creating these weekly lists have made me realize that it really is difficult for me to build on my vocabulary. For instance, the word “prevalent,” which is one that I remember learning in fifth grade as a “challenge word,” is one that I still utilize a lot in my writing. Consequently, the need to push myself to learn new words and actually be able to apply them is something I have recently registered and will be working on moving forward.

Overall, I would highly recommend that people work to become more aware of their diction and vocabulary, as when used appropriately, words can become a powerful tool for individuals. Especially since I am just a college student, becoming aware of my lack of finesse in my diction has been a way to both keep myself grounded and work on becoming a more effective writer and speaker. In addition, the lists I have created thus far have been like a succinct journal for me, as creating recaps of sorts for each week is an opportunity for me to reflect on how I have grown over time.

So, in response to the statement I made on November 13, 2016, which read, “Specifically, I wonder if I will be able to look back on my overly used words and notice how they related to my mindset, knowledge, and experiences at those certain times in my life, which I most likely would not have noticed originally,” I would claim that my ongoing post has helped me accomplish this goal. Moving forward, I think that the minute amount of work I put into the post each week will become even more useful and fascinating to look back on; therefore, here is to another twenty weeks of noting ongoing trends in my vocabulary.

Have any of you noticed anything interesting about my vocabulary and overall development throughout the past twenty weeks? Are any of you interested in becoming more aware of your diction? Please let me know!



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