How Do I Improve My Media Vocabulary?

Mark Wollacott

You can improve your media vocabulary by exposing yourself to as much media as you can and by using the new words you learn. A vocabulary is a collection of words that a person knows. These can either be functional such as pronouns or lexical, words that provide information. Media vocabulary is mostly lexical and relates to words and terminology commonly used in the media. By expanding such a vocabulary you will be able to understand media more and will be more able to work in a media-related job.

Reading a variety of newspapers can boost media vocabulary.
Reading a variety of newspapers can boost media vocabulary.

Media is a catch-all term for news, opinions and features that are produced for mass consumption. These can be written and printed in formats such as newspapers and magazines or they can be produced for radio, television or for online streaming. Understanding these forms and the terminology is key to media literacy as well as vocabulary.

Using dictionaries can help improve a person's media vocabulary.
Using dictionaries can help improve a person's media vocabulary.

It is important to use media. Keep a dictionary handy or use a dictionary website if you are online. Read a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, especially those on subjects you are interested in. It is important to read publications that have different opinions. This is not just in order to get a broader picture of the subject you are reading about, but also to learn the media vocabulary people on either side of the argument are using. You will note that they often use different words for the same subject.

Also watch TV news and documentary programs. If you encounter a word you do not understand or in a context that seems wrong, check the dictionary. It is also a good idea to keep a notebook handy where you can write down the words and their media-context meanings.

There are industry-wide, medium-wide and company-specific vocabularies in effect. It is good to learn as many of these as possible and be able to distinguish between them. As you build up your vocabulary, try researching all the words and terminology related to a single type of media. For example, think about newspapers. What words come to mind?

Write these words down in your notebook. Make a spider diagram or simple list. Think about the sections of an article including the headline and the body. You can also think about job titles such as reporter and editor. Look to define other positions such as a “special correspondent” or a “columnist.”

Go on a media course. Many vocational and academic schools and colleges offer courses such as media studies, journalism and English literature. These not only teach you how to study and produce such media, but also the media vocabulary used in them.

It is important to use the media vocabulary you learn. By using the words, you are more likely to remember them. A good idea is to keep a diary or to write a blog about media. This way, the words will be in constant use and will stick in your mind more.

Keeping a diary and using new words that you've learned can help you improve your vocabulary.
Keeping a diary and using new words that you've learned can help you improve your vocabulary.

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Discussion Comments


The thing with media vocabulary is that it changes all the time. It doesn't stay constant. Based on the current events, based on culture, social and political developments, new and different words are used all the time. The best way to keep up is by looking at media regularly.


@ysmina-- I had a similar assignment for a course. The topic was about TV news and propaganda. So it was a little different than yours. I specifically looked out how the government used propaganda through news. I basically watched the news programs very carefully for a few weeks and noted down any time that the news was pro-government, or in support of what the government was doing. I noted the types of words they used, and the words that were used most often.

It was an interesting assignment.


I'm taking a journalism class and have an assignment on media vocabulary. I'm supposed to identify commonly used words in media and try to understand why the author chose to use those words. So I'm trying to figure out where they stand on an issue based on the types of words they chose to use.

It's actually not hard because most journalists and columnists tend to be very opinionated. I mean, they get paid to express their opinions. So most are on the extreme one end, they either support something fully or are completely against it. So I'm reading their columns and articles and looking for words that express approval or disapproval. I think that's a good way to go about it.

Has anyone here worked on an assignment like this before? How did you do it? What types of words did you look for?

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