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Thread: The Dangerous Thesaurus
Jul 21st, 2011 4:18 PM #1
The Dangerous Thesaurus
If you write a lot and find yourself recycling words, you may leap to a thesaurus. Today most people write using a word processor, a substantial number using Microsoft Word. There is no question the usefulness of a thesaurus, but when using certain programs (MS Word) or simply being lazy, a thesaurus can actually be a bane rather than a boon. Anyone can use a thesaurus, and anyone can use one lazily. Like any resource, a thesaurus must be used wisely, used with some thought.
Using a paper copy of a dictionary or thesaurus these days is unwise if you have access to the internet. If you're reading this now: CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE THE INTERNET! Stow your paper copies and travel with them, in case you end up atop a cold mountain where the idea of electricity is unfathomable, and there you wish to punch or scribble out your next (or first) literary masterpiece. But if you have internet, don't use printed dictionaries or thesauruses.
Most dangerously comes the usage of MS Word's built-in thesaurus. With a shift and F7, a list of potential alternatives scatter the right of the program's window. It's easy to pick an alternative word—one that sounds better than the same you've used over and over—and move along. But if you don't consider the definition . . . you may choose a word you didn't mean to.
I have encountered this before, years ago when I began writing fantasy fiction. The tale I wove required certain terminology pertaining to medieval castle design. I relied on Word's thesaurus and continued my writing. I did this over and over. Half a decade later, after I received an education in medieval history, I returned to the same story. It was difficult to read because I screwed up so many terms. I relied simply on Word's alternatives, selecting a word related but that I favored, and never looked at the definition. What a bloody mess that was.
A thesaurus is not necessarily designed as a tool for you to replace words. It's a tool for you to rethink words. Using MS Word's built-in thesaurus is tricky. Office 2010 has a much more progressive and functional system for Word in that department, more or less approaching the idea from a different direction (the right direction).
But as much as I write, I never ever rely solely on my word processor's alternatives. I take the word I know (or think I know) and use an online dictionary. Online dictionaries are kept updated, whereas a printed form is only updated every 5 years.
Don't just rely on what your word processor advises. That's a river you really don't want part in traveling. Instead use online dictionaries and thesauruses. Make sure when you replace a word you know with a word suggested, that word means what you intend.
Dec 30th, 2012 1:37 AM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2006
I learned something new, thanks.
Never knew about shift-f7. Wow. If only I'd known years ago!
Thesaurus.com is good.
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