It's simply what's going on right before and after this not-so-reader-friendly word. These are other words and sentences surrounding the unfamiliar word. They help unlock the meaning of the word that you do not know.
Let me explain it further. When you identify the meaning of a word from context, you basically are making a guess about what the word means. You are basing your guess on the other words and sentences close to the unfamiliar word.
You will not always be right in guessing the exact meaning of a word, but you may be close enough to understanding what is going on.
There are times that you'll feel knowing the exact word meaning is a must. In this case, go for it. Look the word up. I understand we aim for uninterrupted reading. However, you should be smart enough to determine which word requires urgent attention.
Allow me to explain my simple rule. If knowing the word meaning is a matter of life and death, I will look it up in the dictionary right on the spot. If I believe the word is not important, I will simply ignore it.
Don't worry if you miss some words. If that word is important enough, it's more likely to show up again somewhere. That's why the more you read, the more chances of coming across that same exact unfamiliar word.
The more you cross paths with a word, the more you remember it and understand its multiple meanings and core applications. Take for example the following sentences:
My next project is decorating the kitchen.
In our third year at college everyone had to do a special project.
It's a big theatre so you really have to project your voice.
This is how I learned which word to use under what circumstance without studying the textbook chapter that says: Understanding the Connotation and Denotation of the Word. This is one immense benefit of reading—you learn about words, phrases, sentence structures naturally.
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