Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Using a Thesaurus to Choose the Right Words

Filed under: Author Tips,Word Choice — Larry James @ 7:00 am

Writing is always a series of choices. It’s about expressing feelings and ideas with words. Choosing the right words to make your writing sizzle is of paramount importance.

Image of female hands on the keys typing documentsSometimes you may know what you want to say, but lack the precise words to express your feelings or ideas. Using a thesaurus helps, and using it properly is even more important. A thesaurus is a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. Deciding which word in a thesaurus is best for your purposes is not always easy. However, a thesaurus can help you avoid repetition in your writing and will help you find a word for just about any idea you have in mind. A thesaurus can also be a good way to remind me of words I do know.

Stephen King once said, “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” While I respect Stephen King as a author, I must respectfully disagree.

My thesaurus an indispensable tool. I use a thesaurus to avoid repeating words within a sentence and avoid beginning successive sentences or paragraphs with the same words. It can help you avoid overused words and expressions. Only when your ideas are clear, honed, and fully refined, can you select the proper words to express them.

cartoonIf you want to replace a word of common usage, make sure the replacement is of common usage too. If you look up the word you seek to replace and can’t find that perfect substitute, select one word from the listing and look it up. Nothing there? Try again. Select another word from the list and look it up.

Your own experience can tell you when one word is better than another. Difficulties with word choice can be the cause of awkwardness, vagueness, or other problems with clarity. Use descriptive words or visual words that make it easy for the readers to “see” what is happening and to make what you want to say pop out on the page. It’s best to avoid jargon.

Once you have found the perfect word. . . let your writing rest for at least 24 hours. Come back later, read your creation aloud and make sure it sounds right and makes sense.

Sometimes the problem isn’t choosing exactly the right word to express an idea – it’s being overly “wordy,” or using words that your reader may regard as “extras” or superfluous. Turn to a thesaurus to find different, more expressive ways of speaking and writing, but we must turn to a dictionary, a sophisticated semantic tool, to determine meaning.

Remember, not all synonyms are created equal. When you find a synonym you think is appropriate, always double check its meaning in the dictionary before using it.

Remember, your choice of words reveals your personality and eventually will reflect your own writing style.

Words affect your readers emotions. Choose your words carefully and choose your words wisely.

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Authors & Speakers Network Blog

Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at:

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