People who are not writers (and I know there are one or two out there) don’t need a thesaurus. They scramble a few words together and fire off an e-mail or cover letter. Pretty much any old words will do to get across more or less what they mean to say.
But once you think of yourself as a writer your thesaurus becomes your ally. I use mine more often than my dictionary. It’s my dog-eared, slightly tatty, friend. When I’m stuck for the precisely right word it offers me the choice of half a dozen.
Part of what makes you a writer is understanding this richness of choice – and what you can do with it. Its simplest value is that it prevents you using the same word over and over again. You can replace the word that occurs frequently in your theme with a synonym. Or several synonyms to maintain the variety.
In doing this you find the second value. One of the words you find that isn’t an exact synonym can lead your mind to a whole new aspect of your topic or even your plot. New ideas flash into your mind, new passages of thought are open to your traverse.
“Oh! I never thought about that! I’d better address it.”
And your writing becomes more thoughtful and more vibrant.
The rich and effective use of words is our stock-in-trade as writers. We no longer write “She was a gardener” or “He walked down the street”. We no longer throw in an adjective or adverb “an avid gardener”, or “walked quickly”.
We get picky about our nouns and especially about our verbs. If you need to use an adverb (“quickly”) to qualify your verb (“walked”) then you’re using the wrong verb. Find another verb that comes closer to your exact meaning. You’ll find it in your thesaurus.
Nouns too can be vague. They can be good enough, but it’s worthwhile checking to see if there is a more accurate or vivid noun. Or maybe you don’t make the bald statement at all.
Perhaps you could see her in your mind:
“She’s out there, hands in the dirt again. It’s only
raining lightly drizzling and she wants to get those plants annuals asters planted before dark.” or perhaps “She’s planting transplanting sweet peas”.
Your thesaurus opens the door to precise and evocative writing. It takes the “sorta, kinda” out of it and nails it so the reader is not swimming around trying to catch what you mean and where you’re going with this.
Readers who find themselves swimming around don’t stick around.