Do you want to impress people with your words? Do you yearn to be the person at cocktail parties whose conversation is always sparkling with wit? With some effort and a little attention to your audience, you can learn to dazzle your compatriots and astonish your acquaintances.
Acquire a sophisticated vocabulary.
To delight your friends and amuse your colleagues, you must have an expansive vocabulary. After all, language is power.
Read high-level journalism.
One of the best ways to build your vocabulary is to encounter new and difficult words in context. Reading top-tier newspapers will expose you to new vocabulary words and inform you about the world in which you live — both necessary components of witty repartee.
Publications such as the New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Guardian are all excellent sources of elevated English.
Read classic fiction.
Another superlative source for vocabulary enrichment is classic fiction. Whether they’re short stories or triple-decker novels, classic works of fiction contain many unusual and interesting words.
Consider reading “modern classics” such as Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and Beloved by Toni Morrison in addition to the “traditional” authors such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Exposure to a wide variety of literary styles will help you sound urbane and witty, rather than outmoded.
Check out excellent non-fiction writing.
Non-fiction writing can provide you with rich sources of vocabulary in addition to informing you about important topics of the day. It will also inspire you with numerous writing styles and authorial voices, from which you can learn to hone your own.
The “Best American” series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offers a wide variety of genres and styles. The series includes edited volumes of the year’s best writing in categories such as essays, travel writing, sports writing, short stories, science and nature writing, “non required” reading, and mystery stories.
Read some books about unusual words.
There’s no better way to spark your love of language than to discover some weird, wacky, and wonderful words. Visit your local library or bookstore and browse the “English” section for interesting titles. Below are some recommendations to get you started:
Verbatim: From the Bawdy to the Sublime, the Best Writing on Language for Word Lovers, Grammar Mavens, and Armchair Linguists by Erin McKean
Endangered Words: A collection of Rare Gems for Book Lovers by Simon Hertnon.
The Thinker’s Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words by Peter E. Meltzer
Subscribe to “words of the day.
” Many mobile apps and websites will allow you to subscribe to a “word of the day” feature. This will send you a new word each day, along with its definition and customary usage.
A “word of the day” calendar could also be a fun way to expand your vocabulary on a daily basis.
Use the thesaurus with caution.
A thesaurus can be an effective way to learn unusual synonyms for common words. However, thesauruses group synonyms very loosely, so you cannot rely that words in a listing will all have the same nuances of meaning.
Use a dictionary to look up the synonyms you discover to ensure you use a word correctly.
Take an improv class.
To impress people, you must know how to recognize opportunities in which you can be witty. Improvisation, or “improv” for short, teaches you valuable skills, such as being able to quickly respond to situations, think creatively, manage anxiety, and display self-confidence when speaking.
Practice until it comes naturally.
Your impressive words will not pique your friends’ interest if you don’t sound comfortable using them. Practice using your new vocabulary as often as possible.
Remember to be yourself. By all means be the best, most impressive version of you, but stay you.
Do not try to purposely “show off.
” Most people will find this distasteful, not fascinating. You may also alienate people who may feel as though you are speaking down to them.
“Bombastic” is a word that describes people who try to impress others by using language that is overblown or sounds inauthentic. Don’t be bombastic.
Present confident body language.
About 70% of all communication is done through non-verbal communication, such as body language and gestures. In order to thrill your audience, you should convey confidence when you speak.
Stand straight, with your chest out and your chin parallel to the floor. Balance your weight on both legs. Don’t fidget or shift your weight from foot to foot.
Practice some controlled gestures. Don’t flail wildly about, but learn to emphasize words with appropriate hand gestures.
Make smooth and controlled movements. Don’t rush through your words or your gestures. Moving too quickly is a sign of nervousness.
Make eye contact. Aim for the 50/70 rule: make eye contact about 50% of the time when speaking, and about 70% of the time when listening. Make eye contact with everyone in your group.
Maintain a creative viewpoint on the world.
Watch the world around you carefully, taking it all in. Expanding your reading with excellent sources such as newspapers and journals will help you stay informed about significant goings-on. When someone asks you your opinion on something, it needn’t be a typical “I think this is good because….” response. You will be able to express a fascinating opinion on any subject.
Keep the conversation dynamic so nobody will get bored, keep advancing the topic.
This involves quick thinking by the speaker.
Learn to read your audience.
One of the best ways to learn to read an audience is to watch and listen. A person who only listens to the sound of his own voice will not impress others.
People who approach conversations as demonstrations of their own superiority to those around them will likely be perceived as arrogant, not awe-inspiring. Make sure to listen as well as speak. If you don’t listen, you will not be able to see opportune moments for wittiness.
Don’t make stereotypical assumptions about your audience. Don’t assume that women will only want to discuss shopping or that men will only want to discuss sports.