In this issue:

IYE News

Student Achievements

College Focus:

Art Center College of Design
The Right Word: Commonly Misused Word Pairs
Strunk and White Tip: Strunk and White’s Rule 15
Put statements in positive form.
Recommended.Reading: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Happy Graduation, Seniors!

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.     — C. P. Cavafy, trans. Keeley and Sherrard

Adam P. (Bellarmine CP) is headed to UC Berkeley.
Anders L. (Lynbrook HS) is headed to Stony Brook University, NY.
Arati M. (Cupertino HS ) is headed to UC Santa Cruz.
Calvin Y. (Cupertino HS ) is headed to UC Santa Barbara.
David Z. (Gunn HS) is headed to UC Berkeley as a Regent’s scholar.
Eric Z. (Harker) is headed to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Evelyn D. is headed to Princeton University, NJ.
Irene H. (Lynbrook HS) is headed to Stanford University.
Maggy L. (Saratoga HS) is headed to University of Chicago, IL.
Monisha G. (Homestead HS) is headed to Carnegie Mellon University, PA.
Shishir N.  (Saratoga HS) is headed to New York University.
Ursula K. (Palo Alto HS) is headed to Pomona College.


Student Achievements

Last quarter, rising senior Samuel L. took the last SAT he’ll ever need to take and scored a 2400! He took SAT English last summer and continued with one-to-one tutoring this year. Congratulations!

Jerry H., rising ninth-grader, took the SAT this year and received a 2150. Wow!

William P., rising ninth-grader, was accepted into Bellarmine College Preparatory for this autumn.

Catherine H. was accepted into COSMOS (California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science).  

Jeffrey M., rising sixth-grader, won a Music Teacher’s Scholarship for clarinet, which comes with a $150 prize! He also scored in the top 2% of all 40,000 fifth-graders on an international Math Olympiad exam. His twin brother, Jonathan M., received honorable mention in the Music Teacher’s Scholarship competition and scored in the top 1% for the Math Olympiad.

Diagramming Book

Emily Chang and Alec Zhang completed the first half of the diagramming book last quarter! Stephan Zhu has completed the whole thing!

Diagramming Challenge Winner

Clara H. correctly solved last month’s diagramming challenge!

For winning, Clara will receive a $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. Congratulations!


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Art Center College of Design

A top-ranking art and design college in California, Art Center College of Design (popularly called “Art Center”) is a big name in the design world. BusinessWeek has called it one of the best design schools in the world, and U.S. News & World Report ranked its industrial design program as the second best in the country in 2013.

Founded in 1930, Art Center has two campuses spread out over 175 acres in suburban Pasadena, California. The school enrolls around 1,650 undergraduates, more than half of whom are from California.

Art Center has an exceptional track record as a vocational school that prepares artists and designers for the “real world.” Very little theory is taught at Art Center; instead, students are trained in practical techniques to solve real-world design problems. How can we reduce air travel waste? Is it possible to make a large SUV more fuel-efficient? How can we improve user experience with business websites? These are the challenges Art Center students tackle daily.

Its specialized courses follow an intense pace and demand hands-on working. As in the “real world,” there are no summer vacations at Art Center. Thanks to its no-vacations policy, it offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in only two years and eight months, which is more cost-effective than many other art schools. Classes mimic actual working environments in the industry. Many class projects are sponsored by multinational companies and organizations such as Disney, NASA, and BMW. The designs and solutions that students create in their classrooms are often taken directly to experts at these high-profile companies and tested against real-world standards. This provides a leg up to many students who dream of creating the next big thing in consumer design. In many ways, a degree from Art Center is akin to a multiyear apprenticeship—an invaluable experience for any artist.

Art Center’s strong relationships with decision makers in the art and design world set it apart from other art schools. Leading brands such as Nokia and Apple recruit at Art Center, and the school regularly sends students to Europe, Asia, and Latin America to solve design challenges in fields ranging from wind energy to K-12 education. The Big Picture Lecture Series at the college brings together many thinkers of the art world every year. The college is also recognized as an NGO by the United Nations due to its Designmatters program, which encourages students to produce designs that facilitate social change. Furthermore, many of the school’s 18,000 alumni are leaders in the creative world and help current students through internships, introductions, and collaborations. This network of industry-sponsored internships, mentoring, recruitment, resources, and knowledge prepares Art Center students comprehensively for high-profile careers after graduation. No wonder then that Art Center boasts of job placement rates of over 90% and sends many students each year into the top rungs of the design world.

Art Center offers 10 undergraduate programs, taught in “trans-disciplinary studios” comprising students from diverse majors. Apart from traditional art majors—such as photography, graphic design, film, and illustration—undergraduates can also pursue specialized fields like automobile design, entertainment design, and industrial design. Illustration is currently the most popular major on campus, followed by graphic design, product design, and transportation design.

To achieve its goal of developing creative leaders and innovators, the college implements a liberal arts curriculum in addition to its art curriculum. All students take humanities and sciences (H&S) classes which are designed to fire their brain cells into interdisciplinary thinking and provide a broader foundation for the intellectual challenges of design. H&S courses cover diverse topics such as the Art of Thinking, Greek and Roman Mythology, environmental issues, Visual Math, and Writing for Videogames.

Art Center also maintains that strong writing and communication skills are important aspects of a professional designer’s preparation. The college believes that it’s not enough to possess creative intelligence and to design beautifully; students must also be able to present and communicate the importance of their designs to the wider world. Hence, all undergraduate applicants are expected to have proficiency in English and all high school students need to submit SAT scores for admission. Once admitted, undergraduates from all majors are required to take a Writing Studio class, where they are expected to write on topics like consumer culture and the history of design. Katrina Hercules, a student at Art Center, says, “For academic classes in general, they try to intertwine what we learn into a studio context. So if we’re in a writing class they ask us to write about design.” According to Art Center, students in the Writing Studio class have “to write in a range of contexts, make oral presentations, review grammar as needed, and build their vocabulary. Over the semester each student will complete a variety of writing exercises and generate and revise four major papers.” The course culminates in a final exam that tests all these elements of English writing.

As is typical of most art schools, students are taught in small classes with a student-faculty ratio of 9:1. The 400-strong faculty comprises famous artists, designers, filmmakers, and practicing creative professionals, all of whom bring their connections and experience to the classroom. Their stellar instruction has produced many superstar students, including Academy Award-winning writer Roger Avary, Nokia’s Chief of Design Chris Bangle, and Fuseproject founder Yves Béhar.

Art Center thus provides the ideal resources, platform and network to become a world-class artist in today’s creative world. Rayyan Toh, a current student who will work at Idea Couture, a San Francisco innovation and experience design firm, after graduation says: “We have dedicated laser machines, 3-D printers, and a model shop, services that even some professional design studios lack. We also have special opportunities to interact with companies and people from a wide variety of industries: from talks by Nike designers to commissioned projects for various car companies. This combination of talent and opportunity just makes for immensely fertile breeding ground for ideas and talent.”


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  Steve High,

Strunk and White’s Rule 15:
Put statements in positive form.

by Steve High

Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language.
— William Strunk, Jr.

One of the simplest ways to make more positive statements is to use your word processor to search and destroy the word “not.”

Try it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably see that the revised version is better than your original.

Of course, like other adverbs, “not” sometimes needs to stay in.  Even Professor Strunk used it sometimes, telling his writing students, “If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it loud.”

It’s better to be wrong than wishy-washy, the old professor thought, and he was right.

Writers fall into wishy-washy sentences when they lack confidence. Some fear is natural, even helpful. But like strange dogs, teachers and editors can smell fear on you. Be bold.

Verbs are the heart and soul of positive sentences. The unadorned simple present and simple past—“say/said,” for example—are the workhorse tenses. Modal verbs, such as “can” and “would” usually add only weakness.

Introductory sentences like “Stephanie Meyer’s novel Twilight can be compared to George Eliot’s Victorian epic Middlemarch” assert nothing. Anything can be compared to anything else.

Instead, say what you mean: “Twilight is a better book than Middlemarch.” Putting the statement in positive form may reveal that what you meant is wrong or stupid; that’s what revision is for. On the other hand, the longer sentence may seem so elegant and academic that you leave it in.

The word “would” has many uses, most of which are bad:

With “would” Without “would”
First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, who would become prime minister in the next war…

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, who became prime minister in the next war…

At sundown, he would walk around his property.

At sundown, he walked around his property.

I would stay loyal to my friends and parents.        

I am loyal to my friends and parents.

The advantages of positive sentences are cumulative. A single “not” or “n’t” is okay, sometimes harmless. Removing a dozen, however, improves your entire piece. It’s usually easy to express even a negative sentiment positively. In our Write It Right With Strunk & White, we give three examples:

Weak statements Positive statements
He did not have confidence in his subordinate’s judgment.

He distrusted his subordinate’s judgment.

The senator did not tell the whole truth.

The senator dissembled.

That was not the best decision.

That decision was poor.

Strunk and White itself gives several others.  Once you’ve found the “not,” you’ll be able to think of an appropriate replacement.

The clause “he doesn’t remember” means “he forgot.”

And don’t you forget it.

For answers to specific writing questions, email us here. Who knows? Your question may inspire our next article on Writing Tips.

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by Steve High

Many pairs of words mean the same thing or seem to mean the same thing. But you should know the differences.

Discomfit vs. discomfort

The original meaning of discomfit was to rout.  Today, the two words both primarily mean “to make uncomfortable,” but we recommend reserving discomfit for very serious discomfort.

When Generals Beauregard and Johnston discomfited the Union forces at Bull Run, the Northerners were much more than just uncomfortable; they ran for their lives.

On their way to the series, the Giants discomfited their opponents 11-0 and 14-4.

Fortuitous vs. fortunate

Fortuitous means accidental; fortunate means lucky.

EX: Their meeting was not merely fortuitous. He’d been waiting outside her apartment for hours.

EX: The fortuitous discovery that the famous laureate had shown his daughter a loaded pistol intended for use against her mother did little to help his legacy.

Expedient vs. expeditious

The source of both words is “expedite,” which means to speed things along toward their destination. To expedite is almost always a good thing, and the adjective expeditious is likewise positive.

EX: The company agreed to expedite our order.

EX: The printer always acts expeditiously.

But expedient means to take a shortcut for personal advantage.

EX: Software companies that find it expedient to ship unstable products in order to get quickly to market help themselves, not their customers.

EX: Using underpaid workers in unsafe conditions is expedient but immoral.

Strategem vs. strategy

Like ingenious and genius, the first word of the pair implies mere trickery or even deceit, not towering significance.

EX: Sherman’s brilliant strategy broke the will of the Confederate army; war, he said, is cruelty.

EX: She pretended to be pregnant, a strategem to trick her future husband into marriage.

EX: The Greek strategem of the Trojan horse has become a cautionary tale for all time.

Gratuity vs. gratuitous

A gratuity is a gift. It’s often a tip for waiters, hotel maids, and others who provide personal service.

EX: The porter gladly accepted the gratuity from the hotel guest.

EX: The boss awarded his loyal employee a large gratuity upon her retirement.

Something gratuitous is a gift of sorts, but an unwelcome one.

EX: The filmmaker added gratuitous sex and violence to an otherwise sensitive portrayal of unrequited love.

EX: The politician’s gratuitous rudeness cost him some votes.


Many of these pairs of words have become interchangeable. Others seem headed in that direction.

But good writers use words carefully, recognizing that even old-fashioned uses still suggest different meanings.

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Timeless Hatred:
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

by Kevin Lewis, tutor

It’s easy to relate Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to modern society. The Montagues and Capulets are like us. We both share the same tragic part of human nature, inherited from our primitive ancestors, to divide ourselves into “us” and “them.”

As the beginning of the play tells us, the two feuding families are “alike in dignity”; they share the same social status. But they continue to hold a grudge so old that the audience cannot discover the original reason. The feuding families themselves probably have forgotten it as well.

In fact, the feud seems to be about to end. For example, Lord Capulet tolerates Romeo and his friends at his party. It is the unreasoning hatred of young men like Tybalt that keeps the feud alive. Even though Capulet seems ready to see the feud slowly end, he does very little to end it himself. As a result, the prince announces at the end of the play, “All are punished!”

The pointless hatred spreads throughout the city of Verona. It destroys everything that is good: the happiness of the feast, the friendship of people from the same country, and the very lives of the young men who fight. Juliet and Romeo fall in love immediately. The two lovers talk as if they have known each other for years.

At this moment, the feud seems very far away, yet we’ve known since the opening lines that it will kill both Romeo and Juliet, the “star-crossed lovers.”

The “ancient grudge” continues even though many of the characters want peace. The prince, Benvolio, the Nurse, Friar Laurence, and Romeo all try and fail to end the fighting.

The hatred crushes one of the most joyful parts of human life—the happiness of young love. The streets of Verona seem like a war zone. When Tybalt kills Mercutio, who is always joking, the audience sees just how terribly this play will end.

Mercutio is not a Montague or Capulet. He dies only because he is Romeo’s friend. Mercutio curses both families with disease; his last words are “a pox upon both of your houses.” The hatred of the families kills a young man who has lived to make others laugh.

Romeo and Juliet is “timeless” to us because it underlines one of the worst flaws in human nature. The same hatred that made Tybalt and Mercutio snarl at each other and draw swords infected the minds of the 9/11 hijackers. It infected the minds of the U.S. soldiers who killed women and children during the Indian wars. And it infected the minds of the Imperial Japanese Army in Manchuria.

Dividing humans into “us” and “them” made these massacres possible. The killers convinced themselves that “their” children were not like “ours.” Hatred is destructive. Hatred without reason is stupid. And hatred that exists only because it has existed before is destructive, stupid, and tragic.

If there is anything positive in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, it is that the Montagues and Capulets at last unite over the bodies of their dead children. The source of tragedy in Romeo and Juliet is that we need such pain to remind us of the foolishness of our apelike impulses. The source of the play’s hope is that we in modern times, like the parents of Romeo and Juliet, can feel ashamed of our own irrational hatred and try to end our own feuds.


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