Thesaurus: One of the Greatest Tools Rarely Used

By: Rafael Van Dyke

Anyone with experience in written communication has had the
experience of producing a document with typos and grammatical
errors. The good writers never say a document is complete
without running a spell check first. Those that use Microsoft
Word can check spelling and grammar at the same time. Indeed,
many documents have been saved by the spelling & grammar checks
(I certainly use it on all of my articles).

But, to be a great writer, one must take it a step further than
just making sure that a document is grammatically correct. To
make your documents better than just error-proof, you must make
use of a thesaurus – a tool that allows you to find synonyms
(terms with same meaning) and antonyms (terms with opposite
meaning) for a particular word or phrase. In the old days,
thesauruses were only available in book form; now, they are
included in just about every word processing program – not the
mention on the web (check out It’s a pity
that they’re so rarely used that it’s not even in the Tools menu
of Microsoft Word anymore when you install it (you have to
either add it yourself or remember Shift + F7!)

However, it is very easy to abuse a thesaurus. Some writers have
so much fun replacing words, but confuse their readers and never
realy properly convey your thoughts. The question is simple -
what is the correct way to use a thesaurus to make your
documents great? As you consider the following thesaurus tips,
keep in mind that the main goal in using it is to make your
document “flow" better.

Know When to Use It Using a thesaurus means that you’re reaching
outside of your normal vocabulary to make yours thoughts sound
better. The wrong time to do this is when you’re trying to
convey a personal message or if you’re trying to make a simple
statement. A good rule is to never use it on a one-page
document. The exception is when you need to replace a catchword
that you’ve already used in another sentence (or the same
sentence); even then, you can usually re-phrase a sentence
without having to reach for the thesaurus. Another guideline is
to only replace one important word per page with the same
exception as before. Don’t choke your reader.

Quality, Not Quantity It’s a lot of fun to look for the biggest
words we can find to replace with; but it’s not productive. The
goal is to find the word that makes the rest of the sentence
sound its best; this also means that you only want to replace
words that make a sentence unclear. It’s never fun to read a
document that is full of words that you don’t understand or that
you have to stop to regroup after each sentence. You also need
to keep your audience in mind when choosing words.

Focus on Your Main Thoughts When you’re trying to decide which
words to replace, it’s usually good to start with your main
points. Remember what you learned in your writing class: Each
paragraph should have a main sentence with the remaining
sentences supporting it. Pick out your main sentences from each
paragraph and make sure that they sound clear. From here, you
should be able to pick out the ones that need attention.

The Second Opinion Never underestimate the power of a
proofreader. They will always notice things that you don’t
because writers tend to focus primarily on the topic they’re
writing about. My proofreader (which happens to be my lovely
wife) constantly comes up with concerns that I never think
about. Most importantly, she always points out the words that
don’t make sense to her and usually has a suggestion for a
replacement. In the end, the goal is for a document is for it to
make sense to your reader; so after you’ve used your other
thesaurus tools, be sure that your final test comes from a
reader, as well.

I find the thesaurus to be one of the greatest tools that we can
use to put our documents over the top. Perhaps its decline in
popularity is mainly due to many of us not knowing how to use it
properly. Maybe this article will help the thesaurus to make a
comeback. WellHealth Fitness Articles, at least now your documents can be “negated of


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