Mark Twain once said, “Why use metropolis when you can just say city?” For Twain, it was a matter of being paid by the word. And, in the era of handset newspaper type, conserving space by conserving letters made sense and cents.
Now, however, the depth of a person’s vocabulary can have a huge impact on his future. It starts early in life with strangers judging you on how well you speak. As a child, it’s vocabulary is often viewed as an indicator of education level. If a child, for example, observes a light-colored horse and says, “What a beautiful palomino!”, he is going to be presumed to be more educated and probably more intelligent than the child who exclaims about a pretty horse.
As time progresses, the specific need for a large vocabulary increases. By mid-high school, students are sitting for pre-scholastic aptitude tests and then, usually as juniors or seniors, for the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) or the American College Testing exam (ACT). Both of these college entrance exams extensively test vocabulary and both can result in increased funding for college in the form of scholarships. National merit scholarships are determined almost exclusively via the SAT score. Without a good vocabulary, you’re sunk.
The trend does not end in high school. As student attend college, professors make huge judgments based on perceived intelligence. A student who has a large vocabulary, and uses it correctly, is perceived to be more intelligent and often given breaks that a less educated student might not receive.
In addition, for even greater chances of success in the professional world, students should consider graduate school. Like all standardized testing before then, the graduate record exam (GRE) and the graduate management aptitude test (GMAT) are largely devoted to language usage. It is widely known and accepted that high degrees of education lead to higher financial returns and getting those educations is often dependent on having a larger vocabulary.
Finally, once a student has made it through the educational process and is ready to join the workforce and get paid for his efforts, he faces the same prejudice that child did years before. Interviewers often take less than five minutes to make a judgment call about potential new employees. The ability to be precise and accurate in any conversation is likely to impress a future employer and lead to higher wages.
One of the top complaints about recent graduates by employers is the lack of the ability to communicate. Setting yourself apart from the masses with an extensive vocabulary can make the difference between the dream job you’ve always wanted and greeting customers at the local big box store.