writing skill 1

For this journal, answer questions 1-2 together in one paragraph. Then, write two separate annotated entries–follow the structure of my examples (see below).

1) What do you do when you encounter new vocabulary words that you do not understand? Describe some of the strategies or techniques that you use. Also, what do you do to improve your vocabulary outside of class? Describe some of the strategies you use to learn and use new words.

2) What do you do when there is a particular word you want to try to use in your writing, but you’re not exactly sure how to use it?

3) What are two vocabulary websites or online dictionaries that you have found to be particularly helpful? For each, introduce the website’s name, give the web address, and write an annotated entry that introduces the website, evaluates it, and summarizes its usefulness.

See below for three examples of what to do. These are vocabulary websites that I recommend, to be used in conjunction with each other, meaning, together, as you look up words to use in your writing.


https://www.thesaurus.com/ (Links to an external site.)

This is a good website with a lot of features to explore. A thesaurus is a book that provides synonyms, and some thesauri also provide antonyms. Thesauri can be very useful for academic writing, but they can also be a bit misleading if used incorrectly. Most synonyms aren’t “pure” synonyms, meaning that you cannot just replace one synonym with another synonym and expect the meaning to be the same in every situation. Most words that are synonyms don’t have the same exact meaning and cannot be used in the same ways or in the same contexts or situations. For example, some synonyms have positive/negative connotations, some might be highly formal and only used in certain ways, some might be a bit archaic and are no longer really used, and some might be used in very specific contexts. Word choice can be tricky, which is why it is important to find out more information about a synonym before using it.

That being said, I definitely recommend the Thesaurus.com website, but only if used in conjunction with other websites, such as the two listed below, so that you can learn more about the synonyms that are listed and use them in a more informed way. When you look up a word on https://www.thesaurus.com/ (Links to an external site.) and it generates a list of synonyms, type a synonym that you are interested in using in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English website to see more information—the definition, grammatical structures, example sentences that show context, and collocations (= word partners—words the synonym is commonly used with). Then, type the synonym into the Vocabulary.com website to get a short explanation of what the word means and the contexts in which it is used. Using these three websites together should give you the information you need in order to use the word correctly. Have fun!

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online

http://www.ldoceonline.com/ (Links to an external site.)

This is a great online dictionary—one of the most useful ones I’ve found. Many students have told me that they really like this dictionary because it has good example sentences, clear definitions, and helpful notes about grammar/usage/collocations, as well as pronunciation. I like the dictionary for the same reasons. It also gives you word forms, but it might not always give you all of the word forms in one entry. It’s also important to note that this dictionary has both British and American English. For pronunciation, red is British English and blue is American English.


http://www.vocabulary.com (Links to an external site.)

This is an excellent website for vocabulary. Type a vocabulary word in the “search” box, and you’ll get definitions, synonyms, information about usage, word forms, and an endless supply of sentences from current online newspapers and journals that use the word. You don’t need to sign up to use this website, but students have told me that they got the app on their phone, and they really love it and find it very useful. I especially like this website because it gives you an explanation of the word when you look it up and not just a definition, and I like that the example sentences are so current. You can look through a lot of sentences and notice patterns about how the words are used and the contexts they are used in.


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