Three Books to Take to College
Jun26

Three Books to Take to College

When my granddaughters go off to college, I am going to recommend that they bring three books with them: Roget’s International Thesaurus, a good dictionary, and The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. These three books—in actual physical paper, please—will give you paper-writing tools you cannot get from a computer or anywhere else.     Roget’s International Thesaurus—It is important that you get this version of the thesaurus because it provides much more than simple lists of synonyms. It also provides entirely different ways of saying the same thing. Let’s say you want a synonym for “friendly.” You go to the back of this thesaurus and find the word “friendly.” That then sends you into the middle of the thesaurus. There you will find, not just adjectives that are synonyms for “friendly” like “sociable” and “companionable” but whole different ways of suggesting friendliness: verbs like “fraternize” and “keep company with” as well as adverbs like “gregariously” and “affably” and even nouns like “party” and “festivity.” And right next door, you’ll find antonyms (opposites) like “aloof” and “cold.”Yes, this kind of thesaurus requires two steps to find what you’re looking for, but it gives ten times the possibilities. For more about Roget, who was an interesting man, see this link: http://www.edweathers.blogspot.com/2011/04/paean-accolade-tribute-and-encomium-to.html . (Note: Do not count heavily on your computer’s thesaurus, which is puny, or a “dictionary” thesaurus which just lists one kind of synonym. Get the two-step Roget’s International Thesaurus described above and learn to use it.) (Second note: Never use the thesaurus to find a “fancier” word. Use it, instead, to find the right word—which is usually not fancy at all.) A good dictionary—I personally prefer the American Heritage Dictionary, College Edition because, in addition to clear definitions, it gives extensive usage tips about tricky words. For example, it will tell you whether its panel of experts considers it correct to say “It looks like I will pass calculus” or if you should say “It looks as if I will pass calculus.” (Most on the panel prefer the latter.) The Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is also excellent—easy to use, with some (less extensive) usage tips. Use the dictionary not just to check spellings (as you know, your computer’s spell-check won’t tell you if you’ve written “hoppy” but mean “happy”). Also use it to make sure the word you’re using really means what you think it does. For example, just the other day I discovered that I had been misusing the word “adulation” all my life. I thought it meant “love” or “adoration,” but it really means “excessive praise.” Good writers often look up words they...

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