The Wonderful World of Synonyms and Antonyms: Why You Should Always Use a Thesaurus
As a private Irvine English tutor, I’ve worked with a lot of people who could really benefit from using a thesaurus. In fact, I use one almost every day.
The use of synonyms and antonyms are a really important part of your writing. They provide interest, flow, evidence of awareness of language; they create an emotional meaning that is appropriate to the writing task at hand and, if you want to get a high score on the SAT (Read: “A Timeline Study Guide for the SAT“), you will need to possess an advanced awareness of word alternatives. Nonetheless most students don’t take advantage of the benefits of a thesaurus. Here’s why you should use one:
The emotional meaning of words in context
Every student needs to understand the emotional meanings of words. ‘Excited’ and ‘thrilled’ are synonyms and they have the same emotional meaning. They both convey a positive emotion about a situation, person or thing. The sentences “I am excited that I got into college” and “I am thrilled that I got into college” are essentially the same sentence. ‘Excited’ and ‘agitated’ are also synonyms but they generally don’t have the same emotional meaning. No one says that they “are agitated that they got into college”. However, if I change the context of ‘excited’ to “Grandma gets overly excited when she is stuck in bad traffic” it can take on the same meaning as “Grandma gets agitated when she is stuck in bad traffic”.
A thesaurus can help you on your way to both being a more proficient writer as well as develop your critical reading skills. The SAT, most AP subjects and the new Common Core standards focus heavily on critical reading and reading comprehension.
The wonderful world of synonyms
Just in case you didn’t know, a synonym is a word that is “similar” to another word. Synonyms are not exactly the same, just similar. For example, ‘important’ and ‘crucial’ are synonyms but they are not exactly the same. If something is important, it should be a top priority but if something is crucial, it is a top priority that will result in something very bad if you don’t complete it. It is important that you do your homework on time but it is crucial that you study for your AP exams. It is necessary that you use synonyms in your writing and understand them in your critical reading practices. Without the use of appropriate synonyms, even a small amount of text can become very boring very quickly (READ: “5 Reasons Students Should Blog“).
The wonderful world of antonyms
Just as synonyms mean that two words are similar, antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning. Two antonyms for’ important’ are ‘meaningless’ and ‘insignificant’. The use of antonyms can be equally as essential to use in your writing. Perhaps you want to convey that something is not good but you just can’t think of the right word. Type in “good” and you will find ‘unsatisfactory’, ‘poor’ and ‘ordinary’ all listed as antonyms.
The important difference between a dictionary and a thesaurus
A dictionary and a thesaurus are not one and the same. A dictionary will give you a definition of a word. Sometimes the definition will make total sense and will be transparent, other times it will not make any sense at all. A thesaurus will give you a synonym or an antonym. In some cases a thesaurus can be used as a type of dictionary. For instance, if you look up the word “remorseful” in the thesaurus, you get the synonym “sorry”. So it’s easy to see that to be remorseful means to be sorry (READ: “Five Tips for Success in English“).
Your English teacher will like you more
English teachers read an amazing amount of student essays. If you hand in an essay that demonstrates a fantastic use of language, you are saving your English teacher from the repetitive tasks that they must complete on a weekly basis. Impress him or her with an advanced knowledge of vocabulary and watch your grades go up.
The SAT loves vocab. In fact, you can pick up a ton of extra points on the SAT by studying vocabulary now. If you are doing this as part of your English study, you will kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Remember, it’s never too early to book your private Orange County SAT tutor. Contact us today!
You will do better in ANY college class that requires you to write
Many students have told me that they are not going to be studying liberal arts in college and so it is not necessary for them to learn sophisticated vocabulary at the high school level. This thought is incorrect. Although tempting to rationalize away a few hours of study, depriving yourself of an expansive vocabulary (and knowing how to use it) is also depriving yourself of success in 90% of your college level classes. All classes except for advanced math and perhaps the hard sciences will require you to be a good writer and have critical reading skills. English, humanities, business, psychology, entrepreneurship etc… all require vocabulary and writing skills.
You will sound super smart
The use of a thesaurus, and thus an improved use of language will make you sound smarter too. This type of skill will leave you at an advantage when it comes to things like interviewing for college, studying with classmates, interviewing for a job, meeting your significant other’s parents, starting your own business and so on (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Beating Writer’s Block“).
You will be able to convince people of your written argument (AP essays anyone?)
Once you possess a highly refined (synonym for sophisticated) vocabulary, you will also become a more convincing argumentative writer. If you are planning to take an AP, which I’m assuming you are, then you need to get this skill under your belt ASAP.
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