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  1. booksofkae

    booksofkae New Member

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    Thesaurus use

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by booksofkae, Sep 10, 2019.

    Hello writers who know more than me!

    I am a very new writer in creative writing (typically, I do academic writing), and I wondering what people do here for synonyms. I typically use thesaurus.com but I sometimes wonder if it's actually a bit limiting; I am literally only using one thesaurus. Do people have other sources that they use? Would it be best to use multiple sources to find that one word you know would fit perfectly? I keep thinking I should buy a variation of thesauruses (-i? -us? 3rd declension Greek? -ugh!) to have a wider pool to dip in and out of.

    Just curious what other people do. (Sorry, this is probably very basic, but I am quite new to everything!)

    ~Kae
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Generally the advice is to not use them. It's very easy to fall into purple prose with so many delicious looking words on offer. I don't think you need to worry about missing out on anything by only using one, though.

    My favourite piece of advice on the topic is to never use a thesaurus to find a word you don't know. Jog your memory, sure, but not more.
     
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    tbh i rarely use them at all - i am widely read and use my own vocabulary... the danger with thesaurus is that you wind up using words you don't really understand and/or those that sound false

    thesaurus.jpg
     
  4. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    No, I have one, but I usually just use it for the moments when I know there's a word that I want to use but I can't for the love of god remember what it is, or the times when it's 4 in the morning and you have a deadline at 8 and you realize you've already used this one word 6 times in this sentence already, but you're far too exhausted, over caffeinated, and lazy to remember how brain words work. Sometimes I read it for funsies, but at this point in my life, if I find a word I didn't know, then chances are most of the people reading my stuff aren't going to know either and coming off as pretentious, making my readers feel dumb, or making them put down my story to pick up a dictionary isn't something I really want to do.
     
  5. Katibel

    Katibel Member

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    I use the Merriam-Webster thesaurus, personally. I used to use Thesaurus.com all the time, but I found its descriptions a little too vague, or, occasionally, inaccurate. Merriam-Webster is a very good brand, old as time, and are very particular about their descriptions, going so far as to give example phrases.

    My advice for using a thesaurus is to always take any word you're just learning, or only faintly understand, and look it up in the proper dictionary before using it (and also look for how it's used in material other than your own). "Synonym" does not always equate to "perfect match," and more times than not you'll find synonyms are only near matches. That aside, if you're using the same word too many times and trying to utilize a thesaurus to "switch things up," I advise instead to switch the sentences and thoughts up. Try to imply or reference back more than repeating the same word again and again, because readers are keen and can pick up on the aforementioned tactic.

    Then again, if you feel like the problem is that you've been using, for example, "self-conscious" throughout your story and fear the reader is going to tire of it, think again. There's a fine balance in storytelling between being redundant and too "purple," I call that balance "comfortably familiar." A part of your voice is using words that you're fond of and that are particular to you as the narrator. When readers see your words, they recognize you, and they enjoy it. In this case, spacing your words is of more value than changing them.

    Hope that helps.
     
  6. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have two—the classic Roget's for word relations, and the Collins one, when I just need a quick bunch of synonyms.

    The Roget's is actually quite good for reading, because there is a lot in there about how words are connected. It's not just a list of synonyms.

    I think a Thesaurus is a great tool, but it's not the hammer you're going to be using every time you need to fasten something together.

    If you struggle to find a word, it's often a good idea to see if you can think up a different way to convey the idea itself, rather than just looking for a substitute word. For example (lame) if you're describing a field of sickly purple asters, and you want another word that's more accurate than 'purple' for that particular colour, you could try out lavendar, heliotrope, mauve....etc. Or you could say something like 'the colour of those asters quivered somewhere between cherry red and royal blue, and the combination gave me a headache.'
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  7. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Nauseated! By Crom's tooth, if someones nauseous it means they're making others around them feel nauseated. #Iknowitdoenstreallymatter #stillmakesmepretenatuallyupset
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. Just checked both the Oxford and the Webster's.

    Pocket Oxford English Dictionary, 2013 :
    nauseous 1. feeling sick. 2 causing a feeling of sickness

    Websters New World College Dictionary, 1996 :
    nauseous 1. causing nausea. 2 feeling nausea; nauseated

    It looks as if the USA tends to favour your version, while the UK tends to favour mine. But in both places, both usages are correct!
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Top of the buzzing to you. :) Supporter Contributor

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    I cheat and use thesaurus.com, despite my laptop sitting on a large print older thesaurus. :p

    Halls gets so boring, along with corridor, so I found : ingress. :)
     
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  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I know, but for whatever reason it still drives me slightly mad.
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I've got a few like that myself. And I was momentarily knocked off balance by what you said, to the extent that I had to check it. It's common enough for me to skip cheerily along, thinking I'm right, and then find out I'm not. Red face, etc. I just got lucky this time.
     
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  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    i think the word you are looking for is nauseating
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I should have said 'it's giving me the boak.' :)
     
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  14. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like the Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. I also keep something called the Word Book 2 nearby it was put out by the Houghton Mifflin company. Basically it's an uninterrupted word list for spelling. I browse through it daily just to jog my memory of words I've neglected.

    I don't use the thesaurus too often anymore as I've got comfortable with my word choices. And I'd recommend that if you use one keep a dictionary nearby and make sure the word you pick isn't to spice up a sentence but for the precision of the image & tone. There's a world of difference in just changing the verb John walked up to the zombie and stabbed it versus John strolled or pranced or strutted. It completely changes the tone and atmosphere and opinion of John. It's not just adding spice it's reshaping the impression of the story.
     
  15. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Another resource I used to use
    In English English it's spelled 'bolk.'

    ETA: Another resource that I used to find useful for word hunting was a book called There's a Word For It! by Charles Harrington Elster. It's a bit satirical, but mostly a short dictionary of less common (in North America, anyway) words and terms arranged by subject matter.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  16. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    I use thesaurus, mostly when editing and get stuck on some words I don't like. Then, I also might ask here. Whatever gets me going actually. I also stop by Merriam Webster sometimes to learn new words by taking the daily test. It's always good to learn new words. Before I use a new word in writing though, I research upon examples to be certain from the context that it's the right word. In order to know whether it's a common word, I might also ask here or an American friend. It doesn't always have to be so common, but I'd like my word to be understood by the reader. The less the reader uses a dictionary to read my writing, the better I think. I like simple things.
     
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  17. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member Supporter

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    I never used to use one, but my language has atrophied after years of under use.

    So for a story I wrote tonight, I did resort to one. The story called for a colourful use of language, so I feel justified. And it helped me refresh my vocabulary as well.
     
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  18. frigocc

    frigocc Senior Member

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    But . . . my story literally features a God of Poecilonyms. Would be pretty hard to write without a thesaurus.
     
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  19. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    I only use them to find words I can't remember. Words only work if you know how to use them, and thesauruses don't always filter for connotation. Take something like "plethora." Say you want a synonym for it; something that means "a lot." Plug that into a thesaurus and you might get "surfeit," which means a lot, but suggests a lot of something you don't need or want. Similar to "glut" or "over-abundance." Don Orsillo, the old Red Sox play by play announcer, used to say that the hitter was fouling off a "bevy of pitches" if he put up a really tough at bat. He's not technically wrong, I suppose, but the word bevy refers to a large group of people. Not a lot of pitches or other physical objects. Kind of like how a "drove" refers to herds of animals. And how "litany" refers specifically to a long list. Or how "preponderance" refers to the largest amount of something, not just a great number of something.
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, exactly. To find words I can't remember. And there are so many of those these days. Aphasia strikes the elderly.

    It's that moment when you read the list of related words and BINGO! there it is, that makes me appreciate my Thesauruses ...Thesauri?
     
  21. Mish

    Mish Active Member

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    I rarely, occasionally, uncommonly, operate, exercise, apply the dictionary, nomenclator, vocabulary.
     
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  22. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Top of the buzzing to you. :) Supporter Contributor

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    In group we call liberal mass use of commas: Comma Drama :D
    And that sentence is definitely in that category. :p
     
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  23. booksofkae

    booksofkae New Member

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    Yes, I typically use them for that anyway. But sometimes when I am looking at the word lists, trying so hard to find that one word I know is perfect but I can't remember, I feel like thesaurus.com is failing me.
     
  24. booksofkae

    booksofkae New Member

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    Haha, I love this!!
     
  25. booksofkae

    booksofkae New Member

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    Thanks! I will check out MW.

    I never use a word I don't already know. I use the thesaurus as most people here have suggested: to jog my memory. But if I come across a word that is pleasing and new, I still won't use it. I will look it up, remember it, file it in my memory, and wait for it to appear in the wild. I only use new words when I see them in other places a couple of times.

    Basically, I have stranger danger syndrome with new words.
     
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