Friday, September 13, 2013

Meet my old friend, Thesaurus

Have you ever asked the question "what's another word for....?"

Yes?  I thought so.

Whether spoken aloud or just in thought, this is probably the most common question asked by (and of) writers.  Just the other day my hubby asked me this very question.  Our conversation went like this:

Hubby:  What is another word for <insert random word here>?
Me:  Um, I don't know.  Do you want me to look it up for you?
Hubby:  You're a writer.  Shouldn't you know these things?
Me:  I know how to look it up.  In the thesaurus.

It is not possible for a non-genius-type person to know synonyms for every word in the english language.  Though, I have to admit, the more you write the more synonyms you know.  Searching for the perfect word is par for the course and so the thesaurus has long been a valuable writing companion of mine.

So how do you use a thesaurus?  Well, this part is easy.  Read on...

Imagine you've just finished writing a very rough first draft of your latest novel.  In revising, you've found that you used the word "suddenly" sixteen times in the first three pages.

What do you do?  Delete the pages?

Maybe, but not yet.  Let's try to fix them first.

Step one: open up your thesaurus to the word "suddenly."  If you use an online thesaurus you should see something like this:

I use for all my word-smithing needs.  The dictionary and thesaurus are both excellent writing tools.

Step two: read through every synonym until you find one that works as good as (or better than) the word "suddenly."  The best word will depend on the sentence in which it is used.  Read the sentence aloud, replacing "suddenly" with an alternative word.  Continue this until you've found the perfect word.

You'll know when you've found the perfect word (I usually exclaim YES! when I've found it).  If you don't find the perfect word, most likely the whole sentence needs to be rewritten.

It doesn't get any easier than that!

Happy word-smithing!