You may refrain from ululating. This multifarious utilization of ill-placed declamation generates superfluous gregariousness.

Many writers rely on the thesaurus tool in word processors — a grade-school habit. They substitute their text to boost character count. Sometimes, it’s an attempt to add a little spice or sound smarter. Many of these words are close in meaning but, aren’t exact synonyms.

As a general rule, don’t use a word the first time you see it. You probably don’t have a complete grasp of its meaning and use. Furthermore, it isn’t part of your voice as a writer. So, it will lower your authenticity.

If you adore your thesaurus, use it create clarity or fix redundancies. Never use a thesaurus to sound more intelligent. It will have the opposite effect.

Common Thesaurus Mistakes

New writers often substitute the wrong words when they’re trying to punch up these areas.

Fixing Plagiarism

I see people quote someone else and swap out a few words to avoid plagiarism. This is dishonest. Plagiarism relates both to copying ideas and words. Source your reference properly and keep the original text as a quote. If you want to paraphrase, do so in plain language and give appropriate credit.

Dialogue Tags

A dialogue tag includes the words that accompany a quotation. Said is the most common example. When replacing the word said, writers often choose synonyms that inappropriately shift the tone.

Adverbs and Adjectives

It’s tempting to swap adverbs and adjectives with that handy thesaurus tool in your word processor. However, most prompts aren’t exact matches for the original words. Use this to generate ideas. Only use the suggestion if you’re familiar with the term and its use.

Homonyms + Similar-Sounding Words

It’s easy to pull the a synonym for the wrong homonym. If you’re not familiar with the original word, you’ll grab a synonym without realizing the original mistake. Then, you choose a term that is far away from anything you tried to communicate.

Examples of Common Thesaurus Mistakes

  • Averse/adverse: Averse describes a negative feeling about something. However, adverse refers to something that is harmful.
  • Obtuse/abstruse: Obtuse refers to dimwittedness. Abstruse means difficult to understand.
  • Sterile/infertile: Sterility is permanent. By contrast, infertility means you have difficulty with conceiving. However, you could possibly have a child.
  • Stalwart/ stubborn: Although both words imply immovability, stubborn implies a negative connotation.
  • Prejudicial/discriminatory: Both terms describe something harmful. However, prejudicial describes a harmful action. By contrast, discriminatory draws an unfair distinction between different categories of people.

These are just a few instances where people can accidentally choose the wrong word, assuming it is a synonym.

Tips from a Virginia Freelance Writer

Longer or unusual words don’t create stronger sentences. They can confuse your meaning if you choose the wrong substitute. Focus on the meaning for what you want to say and relegate the thesaurus to times where you are trying to fix redundancies.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll appreciate my other articles about writing and communication. As a Virginia freelance writer, I post articles about communication, psychology, and other creative topics. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram to be the first to know when new content drops.