Mastering the English language is important to communicate well, both verbally and nonverbally. And, as the written word is a primary conduit of culture, being familiar with great works of literature and poetry is key to being a well-rounded person. This guide provides an array of information and resources for vocabulary, composition, literature, and poetry. It’s a great resource for high school students looking to expand their understanding of the broad academic subject known as English.
Having a mastery of vocabulary will help you with reading literature and poetry, as well as writing papers and taking standardized tests, not to mention sounding more intelligent. The resources below can help you improve your vocabulary.
Top 50 SAT Vocabulary Words
It is never too early to start preparing for the SATs; plus, knowing these words can help you sound more educated amongst your peers. Check out the Princeton Review’s Top 50 SAT Vocab Words:
abstract – not specific, general
aesthetic – having to do with the appreciation of beauty
alleviate – to ease a pain or a burden
ambivalent – simultaneously feeling opposing feelings
apathetic – feeling or showing little emotion
auspicious – favorable; promising
benevolent – well-meaning; generous
candor – sincerity; openness
cogent – convincing; reasonable
comprehensive – broad or complete in scope or content
contemporary – current, modern; from the same time
conviction – a fixed or strong belief
diligent – marked by painstaking effort; hardworking
dubious – doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
eclectic – made up of a variety of sources or styles
egregious – conspicuously bad or offensive
exculpate – to free from guilt or blame
florid – flowery or elaborate in style
gratuitous – given freely; unearned; unwarranted
hackneyed – worn out through overuse; trite
idealize – to consider perfect
impartial – not in favor of one side or the other; unbiased
imperious – arrogantly domineering or overbearing
inherent – inborn; built-in
innovative – introducing something new
inveterate – long established; deep-rooted; habitual
laudatory – giving praise
maverick – one who resists adherence to a group
mollify – to calm or soothe
novel – strikingly new or unusual
obdurate – stubborn; inflexible
objectivity – judgment uninfluenced by emotion
obstinate – stubbornly adhering to an opinion
ornate – elaborately decorated
ostentatious – describing a pretentious display
paramount – of chief concern or importance
penitent – expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds
pervasive – dispersed throughout
plausible – seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
profound – having great depth or seriousness
prosaic – unimaginative; dull; ordinary
quandary – a state of uncertainty or perplexity
rancorous – marked by deep-seated ill will
spurious – not genuine; false; counterfeit
stoic – indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
superfluous extra; unnecessary
tenuous – having little substance or strength; unsure; weak
timorous – timid; fearful
transitory – short-lived; temporary
vindicated – freed from blame
Being able to write a proper essay is not just important for completing your assignments; it is also vital to getting good scores on standardized tests and is part of the college application process. Plus, writing is a great way to organize your thoughts. Here are the four main types of essays:
A narrative essay features the writer as the narrator, telling a story or anecdote about a real-life experience. This type of essay tells the reader about a change you experienced in thought, behavior or feeling due to an event or cause. Although typically frowned upon in other essays, it is common to use “I” in narrative essays as you tell the readers about yourself.
To write a good narrative essay, you should:
- Draw the readers into the story with interesting and compelling details; show them why they should care
- Describe events in the sequence they occurred, or in a sequence that best illustrates the point of your essay
- Include vivid details and observations
- Include a concise main point
A descriptive essay attempts to communicate details about a person, object, experience, feeling, or place. Although the writer has freedom in shaping this essay, the challenge is to accurately paint a vivid image of the subject matter solely using words.
To write a winning descriptive essay, you should:
- Use descriptive, yet concise, words
- Remember to explain how something felt, smelled, sounded, looked, and/or tasted – show, rather than tell
- Describe the feelings that the subject of the essay evokes
- Have a clear objective
A persuasive essay’s main goal is to convince the reader to believe your point of view or claim. These essays are often used outside the educational environment as well, when appealing a traffic ticket, asking for donations, or fighting for a cause. News editorials and columns are often great examples of persuasive essays.
To write an excellent persuasive essay, you must:
- Present multiple sides of an argument, then show how your side is superior
- Use logic and facts
- Provide good examples
An expository essay relies on simple facts to define and explain a topic. The topic is analyzed using facts, statistics, and concise examples. This type of essay is not written in the first person, so “I” is not used, as the writer should not share their own feelings or emotions on the subject matter.
Expository essays include:
- The compare and contrast essay – the writer explains the similarities and differences between two or more topics
- The cause and effect essay – the writer explains the causes (reasons) and the effects (results) of an event or situation
- The process essay – the writer explains how something is done
How to Write a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is one of the most important parts of an essay writing assignment, one that expresses the paper’smain purpose. After introducing your topic, you should describe your main point of view, typically in one sentence: This is the thesis statement, which will let your readers know your main belief, point, or argument. As you write your paper, you should refer back to your thesis statement to make sure all your arguments and examples are clearly aligned with and support this statement.
To write a good, strong thesis statement, you should present a clear position or opinion that is supported by the rest of your essay. Your thesis should be specific, rather than broad.
Examples of a Strong Thesis Statements
- In this essay, I will provide reasons why I believe that student loans should be forgiven, a position that is evidenced by the findings of several studies.
- After careful research, I will present facts for why schools should eliminate technology in the classroom and return to more traditional methods of teaching.
- To free up space in prisons and ease the financial burden on taxpayers, individuals guilty of drug possession should not be sentenced with prison time and should instead be referred to various treatment programs.
Literature connects different thoughts, ideas, and cultures — and it can even provide us with new perspectives and ways to look at our own culture and times. In short, literature expands our understanding of what it is to be human. And the following resources will expand your understanding of literature.
Five Must-Know Works of English Literature
English teachers are famous for assigning novels for students to read throughout the school year (and maybe even over the summer). Get ahead of the curve by familiarizing yourself with these five great works of English literature that are sure to appear on your reading list at some point.
English teachers are famous for assigning novels for students to read throughout the school year (and maybe even few for the summer). Get ahead of the curve by familiarizing yourself with these five great works of English literature that are sure to appear on your reading list at some point.
Lord of the Flies — Written by William Golding and first published in 1954, this classic tells the story of a group of schoolboys who survive of a plane crash on a remote island. Without any adults or laws in existence, these youngsters attempt to control each other to guarantee their own survival. Readers come away from this book questioning concepts like morals, rules and laws, and community in general.
Catcher in the Rye — Another coming-of-age story, this one was written by J.D. Salinger in 1951. Although the author intended to write for adults, this has become a must-read for teenagers and young adults around the world. Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old boy who gets expelled from a prestigious Pennsylvania prep school, spends three days in 1949 in the New York City underground before returning home. This book is filled with sexual confusion, innocence, growing up, and death, as Holden encounters children and adults, such as prostitutes and nuns, on his adventure.
1984 — Many people believe that George Orwell was a visionary of certain current world regimes when he wrote this in 1949. The book describes life in Oceania, a community where individuals live with an oppressive Big Brother government. The main character, Winston Smith, expresses his opinions about the situation in a personal diary and starts a relationship with a woman named Julia. As a result, he is found to be a criminalwho must be reformed to conform to the laws of Oceania.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — This book was written by an English mathematician, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll in 1865. Widely popular, it is heralded for starting the literary nonsense genre and has been adapted into several movies and a ride at Disneyland, although under its shortened name, Alice in Wonderland. The novel’s 12 chapters each feature different episodes about a girl named Alice who falls through the looking glass into a world of fantasy. Alice encounters fascinating and unique creatures along the way.
The Age of Innocence — First published in 1920, this Pulitzer Prize winner was written by Edith Wharton about upper-class society during the Golden Age of Old New York. As Newland Archer is about to marry May Welland, he falls in love with another woman, Countess Ellen Olenska. The novel features passion, deceit, and the demands of high society.
The Top Five Greatest Literary Characters
Although teenagers today are fascinated by reality and pop music stars, there are plenty of fictional characters whose popularity has stood the test of time. Here are five must-know characters from literature.
Huckleberry Finn — “Huck” Finn is a fictional character appearing in four books by Mark Twain, the first two and most famous being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As his father is a drunk, this teenager is forced to live the life of a vagabond. Despised by parents and admired by other children because of his free lifestyle and lawless behavior, Huck makes for a fascinating figure. A carefree and thoughtful youngster who relies on his own morals to make decisions rather than on the norms of his traditional Southern society, Huck offers readers a lot to think about.
Hester Prynne — Hester is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s protagonist in The Scarlet Letter. Wildly popular and controversial during its first publication in 1850 and since, this novel tells the story of Hester, a young woman who was sent to live in America by her elderly husband. Hester has a child from an American Puritan minister, with whom she had an affair. As a result, she is not only alienated by her community but forced to wear a scarlet letter A to remind herself and others that she is an adulterer. This novel is a true thought-provoker about the treatment of women then and now.
Jane Eyre — Jane Eyre was the main character in Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous Victorian novel, first published in 1847. Jane was a woman way ahead of her time — spiritual, intelligent, and moral. Although she was left an orphan and raised by a family that despised her, she excels in her studies and becomes a governess. After she isdisillusioned by her first love, she ends up with a large inheritance. A strong and independent woman, Jane is an inspiration to all females today.
Jay Gatsby — Jay Gatsby is the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and the perfect epitome of a rags-to-riches story. Although seen as extravagant, successful, and elegant by his neighbors and friends, whom he invites to his lavish parties, Jay actually comes from a dirt poor family. By the end of the book, readers find out that Jay made very questionable choices in obtaining his wealth, as certain successful figures throughout time have done.
Scarlett O’Hara — Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind in 1936 about Scarlett, a beautiful Southern daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. However, Scarlett quickly grows up and loses her innocence as the American Civil War breaks out in the South. This book is about independence, loss, and the drive to survive.
Literature Analysis Resources
In addition to reading literature, it is important to read it critically and analyze it. Utilize the resources below to improve your critical reading skills.
Do the words haiku, limerick, cinquain, or free verse mean anything to you? They are all types of poems that you will most certainly hear about in English class. Here are some resources that can help you understand and appreciate poetry.