Is The Thesaurus Really Your Friend?

Is the thesaurus your friend or your enemy?
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Is the thesaurus your friend or your enemy?

I remember the first time I looked through my very own thesaurus. I cracked open the spine and placed the bible of words on my lap, eager to flip page after page to discover long words, elegant words, new words, unpronounceable words—the possibility of words was endless.

But was it too much power?

We like to think that the thesaurus helps us, but oftentimes it holds us back from our real writing potential.

Writers don’t agree on this issue. Some claim it to be the ultimate writing tool, while other writers curse the thesaurus for its flaws.

So, which is it? Is the thesaurus really our friend—or our enemy?

Why The Thesaurus Isn’t Your Friend

If you need to pull a word from a thesaurus, chances are it’s the wrong word.

For example, a thesaurus offers these replacements for the word “run”:

  • Rush
  • Spurt
  • Amble
  • Bound
  • Canter
  • Dart
  • Dash
  • Gallop
  • Jog
  • Scamper
  • Scuttle
  • Trot
  • Whisk

Changing a sentence from “she ran to the store” to “she cantered to the store” also changes the meaning of the sentence.

Is this really what you want to say?

We often turn to a thesaurus to find a smarter-sounding word to use in our writing. But it’s just as often the word that is ill-placed or stands out awkwardly in the sentence.

We also get so caught up in finding the right word for our sentence that we pause our writing for minutes—nay, hours—in search of a replacement for “run.”

It’s hard to start writing again once you stop. Your time is better spent writing the word “run” in your sentence, then continue writing and edit the sentence later. There’s a chance that “run” was the right word all along.

Why The Thesaurus Can Be Your Friend

The thesaurus can be a great tool for those tip-of-the-tongue times.

We’ve all had these moments. You’re trying to remember another word that’s similar to “run” but means running at a faster pace, and you know it starts with S. You crack open the thesaurus and there’s the word you couldn’t remember: “Sprint.”

You close the thesaurus. You continue writing.

Use the thesaurus as a brief reference for those what’s-that-word moments. But don’t let the insecurity of the wrong word consume your time and your confidence.

Because a real friend wouldn’t let you doubt yourself.

Is the thesaurus your friend? Share your opinion below.

7 Words You’re Using That Aren’t Words

Not all words you say are actually real words.
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I’m all for word inventing. I tend to verbify nouns and smash two words together so that I get my point across better.

But I draw the line at speaking nonsense.

Some words are so common that we assume that they’re words. But they’re not.

I break down these fake words by their true definitions to prove that you need to obliterate these words immediately from your vocabulary.

Irregardless

The prefix ir-, like un- and in-, makes a word negative. Regardless means showing no regard. Put the two together and irregardless means not showing no regard.

And that doesn’t make any sense.

Irregardless arose from a bad meshing of regardless and irrespective. Stick to using one of these words instead.

Reiterate

The prefix re- adds “again” to a word’s meaning. Iterate means to speak again or repeatedly. So reiterate means to again speak again or repeatedly. The word itself is repetitive.

Get to the point. Only say iterate.

Misunderestimated

The prefix mis- means lack of or badly. Underestimated means an estimate at too low a value. Squish the two double negatives together and misunderestimated means lack of an estimate at too low a value.

In other words, misunderestimated is a complicated way of saying estimated.

Say what you really mean. Drop the mis-.

Inflammable

The prefix in- makes a word its opposite. Flammable means that an object easily burns. Push the two together and inflammable means doesn’t burn easily.

That’s not what you meant to say, huh?

This word may have a legit excuse. Inflammable is believed to derive from the Latin word inflammo meaning to burn. But we speak English, so say flammable.

Alot

Would you say alittle? Then why are you saying alot?

Alot is a misspelling of a lot. You’ll notice this when you try typing alot in a word processing program and it automatically puts a space between the two words.

Keep it as two words. Enough said.

Preventative

Preventative is an unnecessarily longer version of preventive. Both words mean the same thing, but preventive is less repetitive and to the point. So drop that extra syllable.

Unthaw

The prefix un- reverses the action of the word. Thaw means to unfreeze or melt. So to unthaw means to un-unfreeze or un-melt.

It’s a long way of saying to freeze.

You can either freeze something or thaw it. Choose to say these words instead.

What fake words drive you crazy? Share below.