Vocabulary in Context

From Comparison Contrast Passages

About vocabulary

One of the best ways to ensure that you fully understand a passage you read is to take the time to look up unfamiliar words. To do so is to add to your own working vocabulary. Learn to recognize common suffixes and prefixes, as well. Comparing the unfamiliar word to words you already know may provide important clues to the new word's meaning. Finally, look at the words surrounding the unfamiliar word; note how it is used in the sentence and see if you recognize the part of speech. Make an educated guess at the word's meaning and check how close you are when you look it up. Don't forget to write definitions in margins of texts as you annotate the passage.

Contrast passage

Have you ever thought about what separates the leaders who achieve victory from those who suffer defeat? What does it take to be a winner? It’s hard to put a finger on the quality that separates a winner from a loser. Every leadership situation is different. Every crisis has its own challenges. But I think that victorious leaders share an inability to accept defeat. The alternative to winning seems totally unacceptable to them, so they figure out what must be done to achieve victory, and then they go after it with everything at their disposal.

I’m a Civil War buff, and I was reading an old book that reminded me of the importance of the Law of Victory. It discussed the differences between the presidents of the Union and the Confederacy: Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis….

Lincoln never forgot that the nation’s victory was his highest priority, ahead of his pride, reputation, and personal comfort. He surrounded himself with the best leaders possible, empowered his generals, and was never afraid to give others the credit for the victories the Union gained. For example, following General Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, Lincoln sent a letter to him saying, “I never had any faith, except the general hope that you knew better than I….I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was wrong.”

Jefferson Davis, on the other hand, never seemed to make victory his priority. When he should have been thinking like a revolutionary, he worked like a bureaucrat. When he should have been delegating authority and decision making to his generals, the best in the land, he spent his time micromanaging them. And worst of all, he was more concerned with being right than with winning the war. Historian David M. Potter says of Davis, “He used an excessive share of his energy in contentious and even litigious argument to prove he was right. He seemed to feel that if he were right that was enough; that it was more important to vindicate his on rectitude than to get results.” Davis violated the Law of Victory, and as a consequence, his people suffered a devastating defeat (Maxwell).

Maxwell, John. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1988. Print.

Comparison Passage

Early telescopic observations of Mars revealed several uncanny resemblances to Earth. The Martian rotation axis is tilted about the same amount as Earth’s, and on both planets a day lasts about 24 hours. In addition, Mars has polar ice caps, which we now know to be composed primarily of frozen carbon dioxide, with smaller amounts of water ice. Telescopic observations also showed seasonal variations in surface coloration over the course of the Martian year (about 1.9 Earth years). All these discoveries let to the perception that Mars and Earth were at least cousins, if not twins. By the early 1900s, many astronomers-as well as the public-envisioned Mars as nearly Earth-like, possessing water, vegetation that changed with the seasons, and possibly intelligent life.

Adapted from Bennett et al., The Cosmic Perspective, p. 249

Cain, Kathleen, Janice Neuleib, and Stephen Ruffus. English Mercury Reader. Boston: Pearson Learnng Solutions, 2013. Print.