Do you use a Thesaurus When you Write?

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Photo Credit: ShirtWoot

Ever catch yourself writing along and you don’t like how a particular word or phrase fits into a sentence that is sure to catch your reader’s eye? You know that changing a word or two will make it memorable. So you pull out your trusty thesaurus and come up with a better word. Something that only Shakespeare himself would have thought to use. Because after all, you’re the next Shakespeare. You know it. You find a word and instantly your sentence becomes unforgettable.

I hope not. As a writer and reader, I like to think my vocabulary is already pretty extensive. Like you, I rarely come across a word in my reading or online or wherever that I don’t already know. So my question is what do you need a thesaurus for? Is using some random word found in a thesaurus really going to make any difference to your reader when they get to it? Doubtful.

I may have used a thesaurus once in the course of writing my book. And I never used it for essays in college. Cause I just don’t think they’re necessary. What about you? Do you write with a thesaurus?

19 thoughts on “Do you use a Thesaurus When you Write?

  1. Absolutely use a thesaurus, a rhyming dictionary, a synonym finder or any other tool to make words sing. I have been writing for 50 years and have a huge vocabulary, but there are definitely times that just the right word eludes me. I have written over a million pages.

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  2. Only when I have trouble finding a word to fit what I am trying to say, and that is very seldom. 🙂

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  3. I use one regularly, usually when I get that feeling that I haven’t found the right word yet for something that’s important. Like how many ways can you describe the feeling the night wind stirs when you’re getting ready to discover something versus when you’re getting ready to fall asleep.

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  4. I use an online thesaurus extensively. It enables me to pick the best word out of many choices to express what I want to say. Thesaurus is a tool that speeds up my writing sessions, because I don’t spend time trying to remember words. It routinely and steadily builds my vocabulary as I use it. It also stocks my brain with good information that may be recalled as needed. Thesaurus is as much a learning tool as it is a writing assistant. I use MS Word and have a link to my thesaurus at the top of every page. There is no loss of time to use it. I highlight the word I want to find synonyms for and a list appears. You might call it speed writing.

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  5. I use one a lot. They help me build my vocabulary. The more I use one the less I need it.

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  6. I love a thesaurus. Never have I found the word I need but a thesaurus stirs up my own creative juices until the right word springs to mind.

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  7. Have found it to be the one of the writers best friends ……….

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  8. I used the thesaurus a little too much–but mainly when I find myself using a a particular word too much that I feel it will be a distraction to the reader.

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  9. I use one occasionally to avoid the unwelcome repetition of a word.

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  10. I don’t use it a lot- but sometimes it is a sound thing… If the word you’ve got doesn’t use quite the right sounds for the atmosphere. Or sometimes I realise I only have a vague understanding of a word… I had to look up ‘sonorous’ the other day because I was going to use it but it struck me that I might not be being precise!

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  11. I use a thesaurus when I’m writing because even though I know a ton of words, sometimes they’re hiding in the far recesses of my brain. Looking up different versions of a word jogs the memory. So just because a writer uses a thesaurus does’t mean they’re trying to be all Shakespearey. I don’t think it should be used just so a writer can try to look knowledgeable and highbrow with loads of fancy-schmancy, crazy language that will boggle readers’ minds.

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  12. I use one when I feel that my word choice is getting a bit repetitive but I’m far to picky about the meanings and connotations of a word to use one continuously.
    I’ve found that the biggest danger of using a thesaurus is sounding as if you are using one, reusing a word is better then sounding like you just regurgitated a thesaurus, I’ve come across a couple of things that suffered from this and it was very off putting to read.

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  13. I’m on thesaurus.com fairly often, even though I have an extensive vocabulary. It does help prevent repetition, as mentioned by many others above, and serves to jog my memory when a word has slipped through the cracks.
    And seriously, some of the words I find in a thesaurus are just hilarious and make my imagination churn with new ideas.
    I don’t want to rely on a thesaurus all the time, and I don’t, but they’re definitely handy.

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  14. I only use a thesaurus when I can’t remember the word I want to use, and it’s on the tip of my tongue. “That word…starts with an s….what is it?” The thesaurus helps me when my brain stalls on words! 🙂

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  15. A thesaurus is a very useful tool for a poet and writer. You can never have an over extensive vocabulary. It helps to find just the right word for a particular piece of writing.

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  16. Absolutely I use a thesaurus. Not only do I find that using the same set of words becomes boring, but I want my readers to learn, and expand their vocabulary!

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  17. I always have a thesaurus at hand, but usually because I don’t like a particular word I’m using and I want another synonym that means more of what I’m trying to convey. It’s not that I choose a word no one uses, (I have a thesaurus for odd words that no one ever uses) but sometimes one word is better than another. So I have two regular book thesauruses Roget’s and Websters, and then all my other dictionary/thesaurus sources. I used to have a great one with Office 3, but since I have Windows 7 now, I don’t have that program. *sob* it was rather nice.

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  18. The only time I have is if I space out and can’t think of the word I want to use but usually I only use one for school papers. I write YA so I don’t need to have eight mile long words in my writing haha!

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  19. I use the ‘right-click –> synonyms’ button in Word all the time while writing. Well, more often in editing than actual writing. Like others have said, my writing can get redundant – especially when I’ve written 150 pages over the course of months. When I go through later, I often say “I used the word ‘stare’ twenty-eight times in this book. That’s a bit much. Let’s replace some of those.”

    Thesaurus.com is also super useful when coming up with titles. Say I want to name my novel “Twilight,” but obviously Stephanie Meyer beat me to that. Finding some synonymous words/phrases might give me a different title that means the same thing. Perhaps I’ll call my novel “The Cusp of Night” instead.

    But I make it a habit not to “SAT words” in my writing. I’m not a high brow person. I want to get my points across, and muddling them with unpronouncable words that no one knows is a huge obstacle to that.

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