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Increasing Vocabulary Through the Use of Context Clues
From Reading Skills for College Student
Ophelia Hancock
            Context clues can help you figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word by finding the clues provided by the surrounding words. There are a number of ways in which authors provide their readers with context clues.

  1. The first method is restatement, in which the unfamiliar word is presented in a different and more easily comprehensible manner. For example: Infidelity, the act of being unfaithful, is against the teachings of all major religions.
  2. Sometimes authors incorporate synonyms (words with the same meaning) to give the reader a clue as to the meaning of a difficult word. For example: The second memo supersedes the first memo. The first memo was filled with errors, so the second takes its place.
  3. In addition, antonyms (words of opposite meanings) can be used to give the reader hints as to the meaning of a particular word. For example, the cat is very agile, but the dog is very clumsy.
  4. In some cases a new term is defined outright by the author. For example: Toxicology is the study of poisons and their effects.
  5. In other cases, the author is more subtle and merely explains the new term. For example: That world map is obsolete because the Soviet Union has been broken up into many different countries since the map was printed.
  6. Finally, the most difficult type of context clue to interpret is a relationship clue, in which the author implies the meaning of a particular word through its relationship with another word. For example: If taken excessively, over-the-counter pain relievers can have detrimental effects on the body’s organs.

Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

     Another method to increase your vocabulary is to memorize the meanings of word parts. Roots are the basic part of the word. The meaning of a root can be changed by adding a prefix before it or a suffix after it. Below are a series of lists of common roots, prefixes, and suffixes along with their meanings taken from Ophelia Hancock’s Reading Skills for College Students.


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