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Thesaurus pros and cons: Editor's Notes #345
August 04, 2021

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word.
There are no exceptions to this rule.

—Stephen King

In this issue:

1. Thesaurus pros and cons
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. My Covid-19 offer to you

1.Thesaurus pros and cons
Word choice is critical to excellent writing. Drawing a blank when searching for a better word, many writers turn to a thesaurus, an organized list of synonyms and antonyms.

Misused, a thesaurus leaves a writer looking foolish. But much as I hate to disagree with the legendary Stephen King, I believe that used properly, a thesaurus is a helpful resource. Here are my three pros and cons of thesaurus use.

The Pros
  • Sometimes my memory fails me. A thesaurus serves up a quick reminder of a word that has escaped my conscious mind. This saves time and thwarts frustration.
  • When I use a thesaurus, I often follow threads beyond the original word I’m looking for. These unexpected paths sometimes lead to insights that enrich my writing.
  • A thesaurus can build vocabulary. Warning: A word in context is a better way to build vocabulary because it shows shades of meaning not available in a simple list of synonyms, which leads to…

The Cons
  • If you choose a word from a list of synonyms without a deeper understanding of the word, you may introduce connotations you do not intend. Even worse, you may choose a completely inappropriate word, mistakenly believing that all synonyms mean exactly the same thing.
  • If you choose a word because it is unusual, your readers may not know what it means.
  • If it’s true that our best writing comes from our own deep well of consciousness, we weaken our writing by using vocabulary we don’t truly own.
Used in full knowledge of the pros and cons listed above, a thesaurus is a writer’s tool that deserves a place on your bookshelf or in your list of online bookmarks.

2.Tickled my funny bone
What's another word for Thesaurus? — Steven Wright

3. Interesting Web site
Enjoy (and be warned by) these examples of thesaurus use gone wrong.

4. Writing prompt
Rewrite the given sentence as many ways as you can by replacing the word ran with a synonym. When you have done all you can on your own, use a thesaurus to add to your list of options. I’d love to see your result. Here’s the sentence: John ran home.

5. My Covid-19 offer to you
I know that many parts of the world are not doing as well in relation to Covid-19 as others, and that has made setting a final date for closing down this offer difficult. But I have a final date. On midnight, Pacific Daylight Time, September 6, 2021, the following offer closes. The sooner you submit your work, the longer you have to think about following up with further editing with the discount outlined below if that is what you want.

What follows is a copy and paste from issue number 309. The offer is still in force for you and anyone you choose to tell about it.

Along with the health threat hanging over the world, we are facing a huge financial hit. I’ve decided one thing I can do is to make quality editing less expensive during this trying time.

For subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends, I am suspending the fee for the sample edit to anyone using the code EN19 until I cancel this offer. I intend to keep this offer open as long as the world is in crisis with Covid-19 and its aftermath, so watch this space. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer. You can submit your writing sample at Be sure to click the link below the heading "Promotion Code" to get to the special form for a free sample edit. If you find yourself at a form before clicking the special link, scroll slowly back up the page, and you should see the link for the code (EN19).

But it gets better…

When I return an edited writing sample, I include quotes for the full range of my editing services. Until further notice, I will give a true quote, but I will not charge writers the full amount. I am discounting my services 50% for subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer.

Feel free to pass this offer along to any writing friends you think may be interested. As long as anyone uses the code, I’ll honour the offer.

This is what I can offer you in this time of crisis. I hope it encourages you as you face possible illness and financial uncertainty.

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