Recently I heard someone say we should never use a word from a thesaurus we do not already know. It’s the perfect tool to encourage a bit of vocabulary review, to allow an “Aha” moment: “Yes, that’s just the word.”
As an author, and as a preacher, one of my favorite and most necessary tools is a thesaurus. In creating a publishable or preachable four-pages (1000 words), I will open the thesaurus forty or fifty times.
Upgrading words is one of the privileges and challenges of any wordsmith. We should want to do better than pretty. So, we use a thesaurus to consider other options: exquisite, appealing, lovely, gorgeous, and dazzling. I also open a thesaurus
- To help with alliteration,
- To avoid clichés and
- To circumvent repetition of a word.
Some people misuse this mighty tool. They want to sound smarter than maybe they are (yet), so they locate a two-dollar word to replace their ten-cent term. I’ve been reviewing such a book. Here are words I’ve looked up in a dictionary as I’ve read the first fifty pages:
Here’s my problem with his otherwise excellent memoir: He’s showing off.
I have a pretty decent vocabulary myself, and I have come across two instances when he employs the wrong word. Incorrect. A mistake. Overreaching. Showing off.
When someone uses utilize instead of use, Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, A Way with Word podcast hosts (http://www.waywordradio.org), say that person is being pretentious.
he first rule of writing is to write what you know. Keep reading. Keep learning.