Thesaurus-Friend or Foe?

6207da0c9e08fd20a96cc7bf70033c98I’ve read over and over that the thesaurus is a ferocious enemy of the novice writer. As a new writer, we want to impress others with our command of the English language. Often times to the detriment of ourselves.

Do you use the Thesaurus for bigger better words to make yourself look smarter and more professional? STOP!

Not all synonyms are created equal-just because the thesaurus says a word is a synonym doesn’t mean it’s the exact counterpart. Some words when replaced with a synonym no longer mean the same.

Stop peppering your writing with ‘big words’-using ‘big words’ can make your writing sound fake. No normal person uses those words. Get real.

Embrace your vocabulary as it is-this will help you develop your voice and sounds authentic.

We are not walking dictionaries or thesauri but having a large vocabulary is definitely helpful which is why extensive reading is a prerequisite for a writer.

I use my thesaurus but not to replace my words with ‘big’ more impressive ones. Keep in mind, if you don’t know what a word means, your reader may not either. I find it very annoying when I’m reading a novel and run across a million dollar word that I have never heard before. I find myself reading the sentence over and over, trying to figure out the gist of the meaning through the words surrounding it. If this doesn’t work, I usually suck it up and move on. But give me too many of these words and I will probably put your book down and avoid your books in the future. You are writing over my head.

I use the thesaurus when I realize I’ve used the same word twice in close proximity, or when I’m looking for a way to say something a little bit differently. An example would be a replacement for the word ‘angry’. Some synonyms would be: annoyed, bitter, enraged, exasperated, furious, irate…I know and use all of these words but when writing sometime I have a mental block. The thesaurus helps me find the words I can’t quite put my finger on.

Remember, big words don’t mean big emotions. Good writing is choosing the right word for the situation-Hemingway

-Jan R

Thesaurus-Friend or Foe?

20 thoughts on “Thesaurus-Friend or Foe?

  1. First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick
    question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear
    your thoughts prior to writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?


  2. hehe the picture made me laugh all over again (loved that episode), perfect illustration of the point!
    I rarely (like once in a blue moon) use the thesaurus. I have a huge vocabulary though, much bigger than the average person and I can tell you it is a real bonus when you’re writing, but it takes hard work, lots of reading, like you said (no shortcuts). The more words you know the easier it is to find the word that sounds and feels right (not just the biggest one).


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Scott says:

    My thesaurus is in use as much as my dictionary. I don’t often use it in search of larger words, I use it so I don’t have to repeat a word the second time in a sentence or paragraph, and my memory does not always reward me well. This morning I needed a word that would define entertain without using it a second time. My thesaurus served me well with frolic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with much of what you say. Writing to impress is pretentious. I also concur with you as regards peppering your writing with long words giving the impression that one is talking up to people. There is, however the opposite danger, using overly simplistic language and talking down to people as though they are children. I sometimes enjoy the challenge of looking up an unfamiliar word, it can enhance one’s vocabulary and be rather fun. Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

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