1. littlebluelie
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    littlebluelie Member

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    Thesaurus?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by littlebluelie, May 4, 2009.

    [youtube link removed]

    Sometimes I find myself stuck and I want to replace a weak adjective with something that has more pizazz. I'm just curious what your own personal rule is regarding your thesaurus. Do you use it often? Do you try to stay away from it so your writing doesn't become too "heavy"?
     
  2. littlebluelie
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    littlebluelie Member

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    I'm sorry.
     
  3. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Of all the statements regarding writing that I've heard, where there is one generally accepted belief, this is the one I find myself frequently disagreeing with.

    A lot of times, there may be more than one word that suits a scene or sentence better than another, the definitions of which you may have a good understanding, including many of the ways in which the word may be used that aren't even discussed in the thesaurus. If you have this kind of understanding, but oftentimes (like myself) forget about the word in the heat of the moment (that is, when writing a scene that is intense), you may simply need to find that better word. You go to the thesaurus to find it, and when you do, you say, "Ah! That's the word."

    This happens to me a lot.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but too many people use the thesaurus to find another similar word for variety, or even a word that "sounds cooler."

    Only use the thesaurus to find the right word you already know, but is just eluding your recollection at te moment. Using it to expand your vocabulary or to vary your wording is invariably a mistake. If you don't know the word you choose, and know it well, it will stand out like a compound fracture.
     
  5. Last1Left
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    Last1Left Active Member

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    Using a thesaurus isn't always to your advantage. A thesaurus never tells you the connotation of a word -- which is most important.
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    One more agreement with the advice above -- if you use a thesaurus to "discover" new words, you'll inevitably use some of them wrong. On the otherhand, if the thesaurus serves as a quick reminder, instead of racking your mind trying to remember just the right word, then it can be a good time-saving tool.
     
  7. WrongWriter
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    WrongWriter Banned

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    I spurned thesauri when young due to arrogance with my huge vocabulary and cunning use of it.

    Recently I've taken to using the onboard Word thesaurus quite a bit.

    It's a tool, and a handy one. The idea there would be a reason for a writer NOT to use a word reference tool is to startling a concept for me to wrap my head around. Does this apply also to dictionaries? Which often have snynyms. Remarkable. Just remarkable.

    Needless to say a writer doesn't have to be looking for some "overcomplicated" (exceeding some rule of complication?) synonym. Generally people are looking for "the perfect word" or something that really works. Seeing a bunch of them listed can often spark all kinds of processes.

    As can running down the trees of synonymity, hitting the suggested words and wondering out along the routes of association. The idea that THAT would be bad for a writer is incredible.

    They are a very handy tool. As is a power drill. Yet we never see people suggesting that we not use powerdrills because it's possible to use them to rout our eyes out.
     
  8. WrongWriter
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    WrongWriter Banned

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    Too many people use words???????
    I have no idea what this sentence means.

    I have no understanding as to why any writer would tell somebody it's not good to use a thesaurus. Or for that matter to use a cool word instead of a lame one.
     
  9. Emmy
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    Emmy Member

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    I love my thesaurus, but I can't think of a time when I went searching for a word I didn't already know. I'm the scatterbrain type, and so often, there's a word right on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember/recall what it is.

    Handy-dandy thesaurus comes to the rescue every time.
     
  10. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Any tool for expanding your vocabulary is good, right? Thesauri are an easy way to elevate your writing and add interest with unusual words. That said, the preferable way to build your vocabulary up would be to read....and read....and read.....seems to be the same answer to all the questions people ask on this site....which it should be...
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Only if you learn the correct meaning, including connotations. of the words you pick up. A thesaurus does NOT do this, and most people who "build their vocabulary" from a thesaurus, or even from a Word of the Day feature, do not go to the trouble of finding out the precise meaning of the words they accumulate/

    Toastmasters meetings have a Wordmaster role every week, rotated to a different member each meeting. The Wordmaster's task is to present a new word to the members, as well as its correct use in the context of a sentence. The rest of the members are urged to make use of the word as often as possible throughout the rest of the meeting. Invariably, 80% or more of those uses are incorrect.
     
  12. littlebluelie
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    littlebluelie Member

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    The video I had posted was an example of using a thesaurus the wrong way. I agree with much of what has been posted. I read a lot and use my dictionary to expand my vocabulary. I use my thesaurus to search for a word I already know, but at the moment escapes me.
     
  13. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    I strongly disagree with using a Thesaurus to write your stories. If you were just interested in reading/skimming through a thesaurus to improve your vocab, that's fine. But if you're diving in there with a certain word in mind I don't take so kindly because the audience wants to read your words, not some info book's. :)
     
  14. WrongWriter
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    WrongWriter Banned

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    They aren't YOUR words. They belong to us all.

    I'm just astounded at stuff I read on these writer's boards. You get people convinced that writing is like muscles that your exercise and build bigger, and that it's a good idea to create whole books about characters.

    But not that it's a good idea to use a thesaurus.

    Bizarre.

    Again, they aren't YOUR words. They are OUR words. The better you know them, the better you use them. The more nuance you seek, the more you will efface.

    You research your plots and settings and characters, right? I mean, using an atlas is OK? Using a "baby name chooser' site for characters is OK?
    But not using a compendium of words?


    BTW, most people instinctively realize that when they see a new word in a thesaurus, they can look it up in a dictionary to find out its "connotations" and definitions.
    I would think most writers would find that they know most words they find in a thesaurus search. That's not the point.
     
  15. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I will on rare occassions use them if I'm stuck, but I make sure I understand the word first. Everyone else has already explained why. The thing to remember is that the "best" word is not always the one with the most pizazz. Writing shouldn't be boring or bland. It also shouldn't make use of fancy words to the point that it inhibits understanding or simply gets annoying. A few words that you don't know is one thing while you're reading. Then, almost anyone can figure out the meaning from context. Or if you can't, it's not too much trouble reaching for the dictionary. If every other paragraph has fancy words you rarely see, getting meaning gets harder or simply weighs down the writing.
     
  16. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I can't find a good word in English, I use a better word in Gaelic. I don't use a thesaurus often, although sometimes I flick through one of the English phrasebooks I kept and see if a better word is in there. They usually don't include better words, but they do include the connotations of words if a better word is written.
     
  17. WrongWriter
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    WrongWriter Banned

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    Wow. Well, I guess everybody's perception on these things depends on the company they keep. Weird.
     
  18. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    I feel like I use a thesaurus all the time... and I strongly disagree with the idea that it isn't a good idea to do so.

    People seem to be under the impression that using a thesaurus means writing something normally, then using a thesaurus to get bigger or "better" words similar to the ones you have, but ones that don't actually fit in the context or have the right connotations. Maybe people that does happen, though personally I find it hard to believe that anyone apart from people who have just discovered a thesaurus would actually do that.

    When I use a thesaurus, I use it in the opposite way - I know roughly what I want to say, but the word I can think of has the wrong connotations or doesn't quite fit the context, so I use a thesaurus to check other words that mean something similar, to see if it shows one that does fit right. I'm surprised more people don't use it this way... maybe my memory for words is just different or not as good as other writers.

    I also really don't like to use the same word multiple times in close proximity, so if I find myself doing that, I often use a thesaurus to remind myself of what other synonyms are available, in case there are any I hadn't thought of.
     
  19. -NM-
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    -NM- Active Member

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    I only use one really when i feel like i'm repeating a word too often, or when i can't think of the word i want and it refuses to leave the tip of my tongue (Usually i find it within minutes, but there's still one i can't remember a year later...i'm beginning to think i simply made up the word and it never really existed at all)
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've always used one now and then, even though i could do well enough without it, having a much larger than average vocabulary, only because i like to remind myself of alternatives i may not have thought of at the moment... and more often than not, i'll end up using the word i thought of first, anyway...

    but i counsel my mentees [and all new-ish writers] to keep theirs locked away till they, too, don't need one... the reason for that is most don't know the words they find there well enough to use them properly, so the results are incongruous, at best... inapt word choices are the most frequently occurring flaws i find in the work that's sent to me and what i see posted on sites like this one...

    so, if you absolutely must use one, at least look up the word you choose in the dictionary before using it!
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even then, proceed with caution. Dictionaries are good for providing the denotaion, or literal definition, of a word, but can be weak on conveying connotation, the subtleties of meaning that differentiate a great word choice from a so-so one in a given context.
     
  22. Jeredin
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    Jeredin Member

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    Ever learning aren't we?

    I've been writing for a long time, but only lately has my writing voice strengthened so quickly; impart by this site.

    I've actually written a full "novel" and a half before the one I'm currently working on, and when I reflect on those older ones, I laugh. Why? Because it was filled with overly romantic words, phrases and lost points. I both used the Thesaurus wrong and didn't use words properly in their context. Now however, I find myself using the Thesaurus carefully, as many have talked about. I would never say don't use any "useful tool" to write, that IS silly, but I understand the fears that a lot of people have talked about on this thread: using "useful tools" incorrectly.

    People write for many reasons, yet all of us are ever learning, aren't we? Some of us are just at different points in our "education" for lack of a better word.
     

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