Smart Words To Use For Essays On Love

Auspicious. Aesthetic. Eclectic. These words may sound vaguely familiar to the teen in your house. But does he know exactly what they mean?

If he's prepping for the SAT, he should. Vocabulary for the test isn't as random as you might think. While it changes for each test sitting, there are certain stalwarts that tend to show up again and again. And if your kid knows the set, his odds of scoring will improve. A lot.

Much money has been spent on teasing out the candidates. And coaching companies aren't giving it all out for free. The Princeton Review offered us 50 words from their stash of "most frequently tested".  If nothing else, it's a good start. So drop a few of these words into dinnertime conversation and hope your kid's ears are perked:

  1. abstract not concrete
  2. aesthetic having to do with the appreciation of beauty
  3. alleviate to ease a pain or a burden
  4. ambivalent simultaneously feeling opposing feelings; uncertain
  5. apathetic feeling or showing little emotion
  6. auspicious favorable; promising
  7. benevolent well-meaning; generous
  8. candor sincerity; openness
  9. cogent convincing; reasonable
  10. comprehensive broad or complete in scope or content
  11. contemporary current, modern; from the same time
  12. conviction a fixed or strong belief
  13. diligent marked by painstaking effort; hard-working
  14. dubious doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
  15. eclectic made up of a variety of sources or styles
  16. egregious conspicuously bad or offensive
  17. exculpate to free from guilt or blame
  18. florid flowery or elaborate in style
  19. gratuitous given freely; unearned; unwarranted
  20. hackneyed worn out through overuse; trite
  21. idealize to consider perfect
  22. impartial not in favor of one side or the other; unbiased
  23. imperious arrogantly domineering or overbearing
  24. inherent inborn; built-in
  25. innovative introducing something new
  26. inveterate long established; deep-rooted; habitual
  27. laudatory giving praise
  28. maverick one who resists adherence to a group
  29. mollify to calm or soothe
  30. novel strikingly new or unusual
  31. obdurate stubborn; inflexible
  32. objectivity judgment uninfluenced by emotion
  33. obstinate stubbornly adhering to an opinion
  34. ornate elaborately decorated
  35. ostentatious describing a pretentious display
  36. paramount of chief concern or importance
  37. penitent expressing remorse for one's misdeeds
  38. pervasive dispersed throughout
  39. plausible seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
  40. profound having great depth or seriousness
  41. prosaic unimaginative; dull; ordinary
  42. quandary a state of uncertainty or perplexity
  43. rancorous hateful; marked by deep-seated ill will
  44. spurious not genuine; false; counterfeit
  45. stoic indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
  46. superfluous extra; unnecessary
  47. tenuous having little substance or strength; unsure; weak
  48. timorous timid; fearful
  49. transitory short-lived; temporary
  50. vindicated freed from blame

When writing about love, men are more likely to write about sex, and women about marriage. Women write more about feelings, men about actions.

Even as gender roles have merged and same-sex romance has become more accepted, men and women still speak different languages when they talk about love — at least, if Modern Love essays submitted to The New York Times are any indication.

We examined the last four years of essay submissions and charted the words along two dimensions: whether the essay was published and the author’s gender.

Words toward the top of the chart above are more likely in published essays, and those on the bottom are more likely in rejected ones; words on the right of the chart are more likely in essays submitted by women, while those on the left are more likely in essays by men. We found overlap in both dimensions, represented by words in purplish circles near the center of the chart. But there were striking differences, too.

First, between men and women: When men wrote about family, they used words like “father,” “dad” and “son,” while women used “mother,” “mom” and “daughter.” (And we checked — in these essays, the writers were almost always referring to their own or their partner’s family members, not themselves.)

Words used by men and women when talking about family

Of course, these essays represent a highly unrepresentative sample. Yet many of the patterns are backed up by research.

Parents report feeling a closer relationship to a child of the same sex even before babies are born, some studies have shown. They tend to spend more time with children of the same sex and are more likely to say they want a child of their sex. And children often look to parents of the same sex as role models for relationships.

Other studies have shown that females are more likely to talk about emotions than males are, and parents are more likely to use a larger emotional vocabulary with girls and to tell boys not to cry. Boys are generally taught to express anger; girls are advised the opposite.

That pattern shows up in these charts, too. Men’s words tended to be more active: “bomb,” “hit,” “strike,” “punch,” “battle.” Women were more likely to describe feelings: “resentment,” “furious,” “agony,” “hurt;” they were also significantly more likely to use the word “feel.” Men, meanwhile, didn’t write about different emotions than women – they just mentioned fewer of them.

Notable differences between male and female authors

And regarding sex versus love, men and women want both, said William Doherty, a couples counselor and professor of family science at the University of Minnesota. But sexual chemistry is more often an initial filter for men entering a relationship, while closeness is for women.

Still, the line between male and female behavior — emotional, romantic and otherwise — is blurring, said Robin Lakoff, professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Back in the 50s, men could show anger, rivalry and hostility, so they could swear,” she said. “Women could show fear, sorrow and love, and so they could cry.”

Today, she said, “it’s probably best to say we are somewhat confused about gender roles and stereotypes.”

Differences in published and rejected essays

Our analysis also offered hints about what kind of essays are published versus those that are rejected.

For example, what’s telling about many of the nouns near the top of the chart is how concrete they are. They suggest specific characters who might stride through a story — one’s father, doctor, children, mother, boyfriend or therapist — as well as where it might unfold: at a party, in an apartment, on the couch, at dinner, in bed, on a futon, at the altar, in the hospital. That specificity appears to have caught an editor’s attention and made for engaging reading.

It’s also worth noting how many more adjectives there are near the bottom of the chart — for example, “familiar,” “digital,” “beautiful,” “excited,” “proud” and “endless” — compared with top, which included “fine,” “mysterious” and “sexual.” As E.B. White put it in “The Elements of Style”: “There is nothing wrong, really, with any word — all are good, but some are better than others.”

Selected adjectives

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

How Certain We Are That A Word Was ...

Used more in Published essays

Used more in Unpublished essays

Used more by Male authors

Used more by Female authors

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