When it comes to editing copy for a website, When do you use a thesaurus and the auto correction feature? Now that most word processing programs come with a built-in thesaurus, finding the right word is only a click away. But beware… with great convenience comes great misuse! Let’s look at a few situations in which you can use a thesaurus to your advantage—and how to avoid using it to your disadvantage.
Finding the Perfect Word
Sometimes the word isn’t exactly wrong… it simply misses the mark. Say you’ve described a character as “grumpy.” On a second read, “grumpy” doesn’t feel right. Using the thesaurus, you find the synonym “petulant.” Aha! That’s what you meant all along—you just needed a little memory jog. Don’t insert a word with which you’re not already familiar. If you didn’t know what it means before finding it in the thesaurus chances are your readers won’t either. There should be an “aha!” moment when you find the perfect word.
Sharpening Vague Language
When it comes to vagueness, the most frequent offenders are “very” and “really.” For example, “very big” can be sharpened to gigantic, enormous, immense, massive… isn’t English a rich language? Hint: use your word processor’s search function to reveal where you’ve used “very” and “really,” then use the thesaurus on each instance. Don’t overcompensate by using a word that’s too strong for your intended meaning. For example, “She was really hungry” doesn’t have to mean, “She was ravenous.” Sometimes deleting “really” or “very” is enough.
Banishing Your Invisible Word
All writers have one: a word they use again and again… and again. You never notice it, but your invisible word jumps out at readers with all the subtlety of a foghorn. If you don’t have a word frequency checker, download one. You may be surprised at what you learn about your own writing habits. Armed with statistics, use your thesaurus to replace the overused word. Don’t replace words that are invisible to everyone. For example, the word “said” rarely needs improvement. Replacing “said” with speech tags like “gasped,” “frowned,” or “moaned,” is not only distracting to readers, it’s the hallmark of cheap romance novels.
Use these three strategies on a regular basis, and you’ll be amazed by the difference in your writing. Your thesaurus will help you find the perfect word, sharpen vague language, and banish your own invisible word. Your auto correction feature will also help you keep your text clean. And since now you also know how to steer clear of common misuses, you can be confident that your writing will only improve.