Looking for the Best Word? Tip #24

Stuart Aken

onomatop Word Cloud via Prowritingaid.com

A series offering writers help to make their work more accessible, interesting, varied, accurate and effective by exploring similar and dissimilar words. It also gives language learners insights into some peculiarities of English.

A good thesaurus provides substitutes for the idea of a word, but not all suggestions are true synonyms. Context is vital. Placing alternative words in the same sentence to see whether they actually make sense is one way of checking suitability. But it’s not foolproof, so a good dictionary is essential.

I prefer the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. And my dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. But I try to dig the best word from my overcrowded memory first: it’s good mental exercise. Other books of words, which I consult when the appropriate term escapes me, sit on the reference shelf behind me.

So, to…

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