Thesaurus or Dictionary?

A thesaurus and a dictionary. Two of a writer’s best friends. As someone who tends to use the same words over and over again, I would often turn to the thesaurus to find alternatives. It’s a great tool, but I recently read an article that opened up a whole new idea for me. An idea I just had to share!

In my very first book, one of my beta readers remarked that I used the word “surprised” too much. So, I did a word search, and highlighted all my ‘surprised’ entries. I’m too embarrassed to say how many times I’d used the word. Picking up my thesaurus, I found the alternatives: upset, taken unaware, astounded, astonished, bewildered, shocked, confounded, startled.   Not too bad. Gives me some options.

But, let’s go a step further. Pick up the dictionary. Definition: to bring to light by some sudden, unexpected action. When you take that extra step, you can use the definition to further the meaning in your sentence.

Example: She was surprised by his incredible good looks. Hmm…okay sentence, but a little flat.  So, how can I make it better? I could go the thesaurus route: She was astounded by his incredible good looks.

Or, take the dictionary route: Her eyes widened. His incredible good looks were completely unexpected.  Better.

So, how about the word, incredible? Thesaurus: unbelievable, improbable, impossible, ridiculous.  Dictionary: so remarkable as to be hard to believe.

Playing with the same sentence, it can now become: She was astounded by his unbelievable good looks. OR: Her eyes widened. His good looks were so remarkable, that she could hardly believe he was real. They were completely unexpected. WOW!  Fun, huh?!

Since I read the article, I’ve had more fun playing with my sentences than should be allowed. In fact, I recently changed a sentence where I used the word “playfully” to “in a teasing way.” A simple fix, but it made a big difference in the flow of the sentence.

I have the paper book version of both the thesaurus and dictionary, but having the ability to use them in my Word program has me spoiled. If you ever write a sentence that simply isn’t working for you, have some fun. Pick out the words that don’t seem to flow, and look them up. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with a sentence!

On a side note, my grandson was disappointed when he found out that the thesaurus was not a book about a new type of dinosaur. But, he loves words, and even at age five found it to be “fun.”  That’s my boy!!

Write On!!







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