Thesaurus Tips

Imagine that you’re writing a paper, but some of the sentences just seem to fall flat. Words like “good” or “things” stand out negatively when compared to the complex technical terms that are used strategically throughout your paper. A thesaurus can be an excellent resource, but it does have its risks. Misusing a thesaurus can take a simple sentence like:

Using a thesaurus can be a good way to spice up an essay when students use it carefully.

and turn it into something like this:

Utilizing a lexicon may, perchance, serve as an auspicious measure to galvanize a treatise when scholars employ it scrupulously.

In addition to this sentence sounding completely ridiculous, there are a number of misused words that change the meaning of the sentence.

The key to using a thesaurus is to use it sparingly and carefully. The tips below are meant to serve as guidelines for using a thesaurus effectively.

  • Keep your voice. As a writer, your voice is something completely unique that separates your writing on a topic from another student who could be writing about the exact same topic. Find a balance between using higher-level words and words you would you conversationally.
  • Use a synonym that maintains your desired meaning. Take the time to look up the definition of the word.  For example,the second italicized sentence used the word “galvanize” to replace the phrase “spice up.” Galvanize usually means that is excites someone to take action. A better choice might have been “enhance.”
  • Consider the other tips in the book wordSmart.


    1. Does it sound good?
    2. Is it the right part of speech?
    3. Will your audience understand the meaning?
    4. Have you used this word before? Using a variety of words may keep your writing interesting, but repetition might solidify a certain concept.

– Katelynne Bauer, MTMC Coach

Leave a comment