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SENTENCE AND WORD VARIETY: USING A THESAURUS

SENTENCE AND WORD VARIETY: USING A THESAURUS

Author: DAVID SHAFFER
Description:

THIS PACKET WILL REVIEW:
Varying Word Usages in Writing and Discussion
Definition and Use of a Thesaurus
How to Reorganize a Sentence

This packet explains, via text and video, what a thesaurus is, how to use a thesaurus, what a sentence is, and how to reorganize a sentence. The videos cover (1) what a basic sentence is, and (2) a light look at the overuse of a thesaurus.

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Tutorial

WHAT IS A THESAURUS?

Simply put, a thesaurus is a reference for synonyms and antonyms; that is, words that have a similar meaning or opposite meaning to the word you are looking up.   Roget's Thesaurus is a popular version, and can be found in book form or on the internet.  Roget's, itself, lists a "thesaurus" as a "lexicon" or "glossary" of words.  It also references the words "synonym" and "antonym" as related words.  (Please see lesson regarding synonyms at  http://sophiau.com/packets/1144.)

Source: Webster's New World Roget's A-Z Thesaurus

WHY USE A THESAURUS?

Let's say you tell your buddy that you thought a movie was "good."  And he says "What do you mean, "good?"  Can you think of a more descriptive word than "good?"  No? Then whip out the ol' thesaurus, and see what synonyms it has for "good."  Well, it has a lot of synonyms.  In your comment about the movie, you may have meant "good" as in "thorough" or "meticulous."  So you could say the movie was meticulous.  (If you aren't sure what that means, you can look meticulous up in your thesaurus, too!)

If you use "thorough" or "meticulous" in your everyday speaking, or the next time you write an essay for school, then you have improved your vocabulary.  Your teacher will like the improvement, and maybe even your girlfriend or boyfriend will be impressed. It's win-win. Seriously.

Source: Webster's New World Roget's A-Z Thesaurus

OVERUSE OF A THESAURUS video

A skit from "The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson" hilariously demonstrating the overuse of a thesaurus.

Source: YouTube

WHAT IS A SENTENCE?

We know now that using a thesaurus can improve your vocabulary, which can be especially impressive when you write.  But you have to know what a sentence is before you can write one.

Simply put, a sentence is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate, or verb.  A subject is the who or what that is doing something.  The "doing" (or "action") word is the predicate (verb)

Let's say John sawed a log.  John is the subject, the "who" who sawed. "Sawed" is the action, the "doing" word. A shorter, simpler version is "John sawed." Subject, verb.  "A log" tells what he sawed, and is part of the predicate, but that is another lesson.

WHAT IS A SENTENCE? Video

This is a quick animation of Mr. Morton, the subject. The things he does are the actions, or predicate words. As the film says, "The predicate tells what Mr. Morton must do."

Source: YouTube

Reorganization of a Sentence

To reorganize a sentence is simply to rearrange it by writing the same thing in a different, and hopefully more understandable, way.

 Let's look at these sentences: (from the Utah State University Writing Guide)

"The robber ran from the policeman, still holding the money in his hands."  Who had the money, the robber or the policeman?  Let's clear that up: "The robber, still holding the money in his hands, ran from the policeman." Now we know what we suspected all along: that the robber was still holding the money.

"After being whipped fiercely, the cook boiled the egg."  Was the cook being whipped? That's what the sentence seems to say.  Let's clear that up:  "The cook boiled the egg after he fiercely whipped it." Now we know that the egg was whipped. We knew it wasn't the cook, but the sentence wasn't clear until we reorganized it.

"Flitting from flower to flower, the football player watched the bee." OK, we know that the bee was flitting, but the sentence is unclear on that. Let's clear that up: "The football player watched the bee flit from flower to flower."

Always double-check your writing, not just for spelling and punctuation, but also to see that your sentences make sense.