The Danger of Being a Thesaurus User

Most prolific writers are so confident of their vocabulary that they use the thesaurus instead of the dictionary. I don’t claim to be prolific but I admit to that error. Jennifer Blanchard explains why we should avoid the error:

‘Here are the life-changing lessons the editor imparted on me, and why you need to be very cautious when using the thesaurus:
‘Not all synonyms are created equal—The editor explained to me that just because the thesaurus says a word is a synonym for another word, doesn’t mean it’s the word’s exact counterpart. Some words, when replaced by a synonym, no longer mean the same thing.
Stop peppering your writing with “big words”—By using the thesaurus to change words I thought were “common,” I ended up sounding fake. And readers can always tell if a writer is being genuine or not.
Embrace your vocabulary as-is—One of my all-time favorite writing books is “On Writing,” by Stephen King. In the book, King says that wherever your vocabulary is at today is fine. There’s no need to learn more words or different words. Whatever words you know right now, you use. This will help you develop your voice and sound unique. Looking back, when I used words I didn’t really understand or know the meaning of, my writing suffered.
Although there are absolutely times when you need a thesaurus—to find a more descriptive way to say something, to see if you made the best possible word choice—you still want to make sure you always exercise caution, and say, “Do I really need this?” before you pull that reference book off your shelf.’
Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers.

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About DigitalPlato

Poch is a Bookrix author and a freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to TED Conversations.
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2 Responses to The Danger of Being a Thesaurus User

  1. pochp says:

    Hey Dood,
    I read your message roud and creal.

  2. writerdood says:

    This is true, however; I think if you’re familiar with English, you should be able to get a “feel” for how common a word is in the culture you’re writing for. Even with fiction, you’re writing for an audience. Know your audience. Use words they are familiar with. And the best way to know your audience is to read books that are specific to your audience. Then you’ll know whether or not you’ve picked a word that marks you as a pretentious dork, or as a decent writer for your selected audience.

    Studly your Enrish good.

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