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The Wonderful World of Synonyms and Antonyms

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.

tutornerds-private-irvine-tutorYou will score higher on the SAT

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.

tutor logo Early Decision vs. Early Action: What You Need to KnowAll blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by TutorNerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us post about.

Finding Your Writing Process | TutorNerds | Orange County

Finding Your Writing Process – Start Writing!

Are your English papers coming back with Ds and Cs? If so, ask yourself, “do I have a writing process?” Essays and research papers only get longer and harder in college, so developing a solid process early on may be the difference between failing and thriving.

Writing-Tips-bookTutorNerds’ Irvine private tutors cannot stress enough the importance of having a writing process. In the same way professional actors have routines prior to shows or sports stars have routines before a big game, habits help get us in the right mindset. Specifically, they help ensure a positive outcome. You’ll want to come up with your own routine around writing, even if you don’t plan on being an author. In this next step of the writing process, we’ll look at common assumptions students have about writing. By the end, you’ll see how much control you have over the writing process and where you can start customizing your own method.

The writing stage comes right after deciding what to write about.

Once you decide on a topic or are given an assignment, hold off the urge to just “get it done.” With no prior planning or evidence, you’ll have at best a disorderly essay with little proof to back up the thesis. Instead, after a topic is chosen, the best way to turn is towards an outline. This is what we call a “working document,” one that is in a constant state of change until you’re confident in the product. Use this outline as a way to gather information, ideas and evidence. From here you can change ideas around, move evidence to different paragraphs, anything you need to create an outline that is logical and supported by evidence. From there, you can start writing.

The writing stage only needs to be done once and it’s over.

We all know we do our best work when we’re relaxed and have time to check our mistakes. If yours truly had to turn in first drafts as final drafts, I’d be pretty embarrassed. Writing is usually not a one stage process, at least not for anything over a half page. Instead of stressing out and missing silly mistakes, allow yourself breaks while writing. The best writing process includes an outline, rough draft, and final draft. Each of these can be followed by a break of a few hours or a whole day. Coming back with a fresh mind will usually help catch unclear ideas or awkward sentences you may have missed.

I’ll start with the introduction, figure out a thesis statement, then write the body paragraphs, followed by the conclusion.

This is usually the most common mistake with young writers. We get into a habit of writing from introduction to conclusion because that’s how we’re taught in school. When teaching writing for the first time, it makes sense to teach it in a logical manner; from top to bottom, the way we read it. However, most writers work much better outside the top to bottom system. Instead, try starting with the body paragraphs. This way you have all your evidence done, and your thesis, introduction, and conclusion will actually match your ideas. It really doesn’t matter how you start, you just want to find a way to ensure your ideas stay consistent from start to finish.

grade-papersI can write the night before it’s due.

Has this ever worked out well for anyone? Let’s argue it hasn’t. Put simply, it’s being lazy. Relying on the night before has a lot to do with many of the other assumptions we’ve discussed.

To push the point, putting writing off to the last minute never turns out well. You may still get a good grade, but you know it’s not your best work. We talked previously about how your ideas can change over time. If you give yourself  the opportunity to think about a question or concept for more than a few hours, you’ll probably have a better understanding of it. If you don’t utilize that time, what you may have instead is a confused paper; one that begins with an opinion, and ends with another entirely. The change of opinion may be incredibly insightful, but it’s overshadowed by a paper that makes no logical sense.

As your local Orange County in-home tutors we know you can do better than procrastinating. It all comes back to confidence; confidence in your writing and in yourself. Trust us, a private tutor can help with both those things.

tutor logo Kindness Clubs for Kids | TutorNerds | tutornerds.com All blog entries are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional, in Irvine, Orange County, CA, or other relevant blogger? If so, email us at info@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations.

Attention all Orange County, CA, high school students grades 9-12: Enter our essay contest for a chance to win $500! The deadline is quickly approaching.

One final note of interest: According to the Los Angeles Times, UC seeks to increase transfer students from community colleges. As you may know, the current counseling/transfer process is confusing and difficult, which makes this promising news. Follow us on twitter: for the latest on this exciting announcement. Remember, we’re here to help you with all your college admissions needs

Five Tips For Your College Entrance Essay | TutorNerds

Applying to College is Scary

It’s time to sit down and write that personal essay to send out to your dream college and you have to communicate to the school admissions department why you should get a coveted spot in their freshman class. In this tutor’s experience, everyone seems to leave this particular part of their college application process to the very end. Admittedly, writing about yourself is about as awkward as it gets and with a general question like “Why should you be accepted to this university?” or “How will you use your education to improve your life?” the idea of trying to be original is nearly impossible.

Tutor Nerds English

That’s just it, don’t try, just do it. Of course, I know that is much easier said than done but the more you think about what to write the harder it will be, so it’s important to just get some words down on paper. You always have the option of editing later. In fact, you will probably write several drafts before you arrive at that final, polished version. Trust us, our Orange County private tutors have applied and been accepted to some prestigious universities (it wasn’t easy).

Trying too hard to stand out will almost always end up making your writing style appear forced. Do yourself a favor and take some of the stress away and let your inner brilliance shine!

1. Make a list of things that you honestly want to do with your life after college.

If you’re not sure what you want to do or if you think you might change your mind, just write down something that would be really cool to do with your life, even if it doesn’t seem entirely realistic. Have you always wanted to cycle across the USA? Wish you could get paid to travel and write articles about awesome tourist sites? Write these down in your outline, they could come in handy later.

2. Just start writing.

Forget about flow, grammar and spelling for now (that will come later). If your computer feels uninspiring, go down to your favorite place and write with a good old fashioned paper and pencil. Being in nature, near the ocean, or in any setting that makes you feel relaxed will help the words flow out of your head and onto that paper.

3. Write a few versions of your personal essay.

It will be great to have some options to choose from later. Also, if different colleges have slightly different prompts, don’t try to mold one essay into several. Take the time to write a separate essay for each university. The admissions department will easily be able to tell which applicants took the time to write an entire essay from scratch and who took a short cut. Your personal essay is essentially your resume and cover letter combined. It could possibly take you from the “maybe” pile to the “yes” pile, so those extra hours are definitely worth it!

4. Wait a day or two before proofreading your essay.

It is really hard to edit your own work, but having a fresh eye will give you a better shot at making adequate changes. Do all of the content edits first, and then move on to the grammar and flow edits. If you correct grammar and formatting before content, you may find that you are spending more time than you need and we want to keep this as low stress as possible to keep those creative juices flowing.

Books - essay - college

5. Know when to ask for help.

If you are really struggling with this aspect of your college application, don’t be afraid to get help from your private Irvine in-home tutor or a responsible classmate. All of the content should be yours but there is no reason why you can’t get inspiration or formatting help from an experienced writer.

Bottom Line:  Be yourself. You want to end up at a university that is a good fit for you and has the programs and opportunities that will enrich your life and help you get closer to your career goals.

Need practice? Enter our Orange County, California, essay contest. It’s open to all O.C. high school students grades 9-12. In addition to the chance of wining $500 for summer, the contest is a great opportunity to practice your essay skills.

Have a fantastic Earth Day, Orange County!

All blog entries are written by Tutor Nerds. For educational guest-blogging, please email us at info@tutornerds.com

Orange County Essay Contest ($500 Prize) | TutorNerds

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  – Toni Morrison

Orange County High School Essay Contest: Write Your Own Future


Writing well is important. It’s important for your education, your future job, and various other social interactions. Even if you aced your high school English courses, odd are you’re still not adequately prepared for college level writing assignments. Writing well takes time, practice, and patience. Unfortunately, most students find this out the night before an important essay is due, or while writing their college entrance essays.

In order to help get the word out about America’s writing crisis, we’re calling on all Orange County private and public high school students to tell us why they think writing well is important. Further, you can win money ($500). Below is our official press release. Please contact us at info@tutornerds.com for any questions regarding the contest. Stay updated on the latest news by checking our Google +, blog, twitter, and facebook often. Good luck, OC!

Rules, Regulations, and Deadlines

Irvine, California – As a part of the Orange County community, local company TutorNerds is concerned high school students are entering college with insufficient writing skills. For instance, in a study administered by the National Center for Educational Progress, four out of five American students do not write proficiently. This is alarming. So how can we help? In addition to our tutoring services, we are committed to making this crisis part of everyday educational conversations. Most importantly, we want to show writing can be fun and fulfilling .

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect” – Anais Nin.

In a world of word processors, tweets, and texts, it’s often difficult for students to realize the importance of writing well. Sadly, most individuals discover too late that their abilities are not up to par with college standards. From business emails to wedding vows, having the ability to write well will always give you the advantage.  

For the reasons mentioned above, TutorNerds officially announces its Essay Contest for Orange County 9-12th graders. This essay contest gives local students the chance to compete for a first place Grand Prize of $500 towards the student’s education.

The contest specifics are as followed:

The contest is open to current students of any Orange County private or public high schools.
The essay prompt reads: “Describe why you believe writing well is important for your future.”

The contest submissions should be no more than 1,500 words written preferably with Microsoft Word and saved as a Word document. The 1,500 max word count should be taken seriously, as submissions with any more than 1,500 words will not be considered.

Students are required to ensure their submissions are written in Times New Roman, 12 pt font, and double spaced.

Submissions must be of entirely original content. Students are not allowed to receive any help from friends or family. Moreover, these submissions must be something that the student has written for this particular essay contest. This means that articles or content from previous school assignments, or even past essay contests, will not be accepted.

Contest submissions will be judged on three aspects:

Quality of content (including writing, grammar, spelling, punctuation, structure, etc.);

Persuasiveness of the student’s argument(s) as well as the persuasiveness of the student’s counter-argument(s);

Overall Originality (essays should be enjoyable, enlightening, and easy to read. In other words, use your own voice!).

First place will receive $500 towards his or her education. In addition, the top five essays will be credited and published  on our blog.

In order to be considered for this contest, students who submit content must also follow TutorNerds on twitter (@TutorNerds), as well as like TutorNerds’ Facebook page. Don’t be a contest hog! Help us spread the word by sharing, tweeting, and telling your Orange County high school contemporaries about the competition.

In honor of Walt Whitman’s birthday,  the deadline for submitting content is 12 Noon on May 31, 2014. Each student is asked to include in his or her submission their full name, e-mail address, phone number, the high school in which the student currently attends and the grade level, and the student’s twitter handle. Students should submit their essays to info@tutornerds.com

The winners’ names will be posted the week of the 16th of June, 2014. Students who submitted winning essays will also be contact via telephone, so it’s vital that students provide a correct telephone number.

This contest is void where prohibited by law. TutorNerds LLC reserves the right to refuse to award if doing so violates any applicable state laws.

TutorNerdsEssayContestPlease help us spread the word by sharing our contest on social media, as well as telling your classmates, teachers, and parents! We look forward to reading your essays, Orange County.

All blog entries are written by Tutor Nerds. For educational guest-blogging, please email us at info@tutornerds.com

Five Tips for Success in English Class | TutorNerds

How to do Well in High School English Courses

Whether people hate them or love them, high school English courses are important. Many people say that reading Shakespeare or Charles Dickens and writing a six paragraph essay has no value to a student’s future. This is only true if they do not think that critical analysis and reading are important.

slidebird1The fact is, writing and reading go hand in hand in taking student’s skills to a higher level. People do not have to write academic essays when they grow up and start a career. However, they will have to know how to organize sentences and ideas in a coherent and logical manner if they want to be taken seriously in any job – think business emails. That being said, here are a few tips to get you on your way to success in English class.

1. Always Do the Reading

High school English courses present a wide variety of literature, and, odds are, students won’t like it all. However, people should discard their subjectivity while they read. English teachers care more about students completing writing assignments than them liking what they read – who knows, you might find yourself enjoying it.

Students should take advantage of class discussions to let their teacher know how they feel about what they’ve read. Teachers will be impressed by freethinkers who know the material. It’s difficult to contribute when you haven’t done the readings, and you’ll most likely end up embarrassing yourself. Further, a student’s grades will reflect their preparedness – teachers don’t like lazy pupils!

2. Know Thy Grammar

The majority of English students groan at the thought of studying grammar any more than necessary. They can not be blamed, as grammar consists of rules that put limits on how people express themselves through language. Some students may even see grammar-obsessive teachers as a handicap on their creative freedom.

Unfortunately, their English teacher will not be swayed by such an argument. What is worse is that they will continue to take points off of essays for things such as run-on sentences, comma splices, and confusion between “they’re”, “their” and “there”.

Relax, students shouldn’t fear weekends spent with a grammar book. Instead, they should pay close attention to how their teacher grades classwork. This will enable them to avoid making the same mistakes twice. If they can, students should also correct these errors when speaking; as people tend to write similarly to the way that they speak.

3. Always Start Essays Early

When writing essays, students should make sure that they have enough time to create quality-content. Teachers often give students several weeks to write an essay. It is also a good idea to start writing the essay the same day that it is assigned. This is because starting to write an essay is often the least fun and hardest part.

Students who get the dreaded first paragraph out of the way early are less likely to procrastinate. Likewise, they are able to get a good night’s sleep before it is due, as they finish with time to spare. Finally, use this extra time to proofread and make revisions as needed.

4. Learn the Five Paragraph Essay Right Now

In order to be successful in high school English courses, students should take the time to master the structure of the five paragraph essay. Lots of schools across the U.S. are teaching this as early as 5th grade. If a student takes the time to master this concept early, writing papers in high school and college will be a breeze.

Aside from that, it doesn’t hurt to have this skill when they are in the workforce. Writing presentations, reports, and emails is a snap when you understand how to structure arguments and ideas.

5. Journal

Journaling is like thinking, but in a written form. Another way for students to be successful in their high school English courses is to try creating a personal journal. Journaling helps them get their ideas out into the universe without editing themselves. The main point is that a student is jump-starting their writing skills by getting words out on paper. It also helps them remember important points in the story that they are reading. This will help them do well on essay tests, quizzes, and even in class discussions.


The Bottom Line

A lot of things that students write and read about in their high school English courses may not seem especially important for their future. However, teachers try their best to create a framework that helps people understand how to write and read critically. Students need these two skills for everything. Following these simple tips will not only give them an edge in their English courses, but also provide them with the important skills that they can use in their lives for many years to come.

Write on, Los Angeles.