In Lesson 6 I talked about the importance of having a good dictionary so that we fully understand the meaning of the words we write. There are not near enough words already in my head to provide instant revelation of the exact word I should select for any given situation. Because of my background and education, I have words from certain groupings that I understand.

I work in an engineering office so I understand such words as design, CAD, beams, supports, milliamps, scheduling, estimating, cost analysis, terminations, schematics, plans, isometrics, blueprints, etc. When I write proposals, I have a lot of words that I can use to ensure that project managers understand what I plan to do.

I also like to work on cars, so I understand how engines work with their pistons, crankshafts, cams, etc.

I fish some, so I understand a little about rods, reels, grubs, corks, fishing line, hooks, nets, lead weights, and Mississippi shiners.

I could go on and on pointing out areas that I have some familiarity with. Even with my understanding of the various areas mentioned, I do not know or remember every word that is available to convey my thoughts properly. That’s where I turn to the second reference book that everyone should have.

Get a Good Synonym Finder and reference it often. At the flea market, I picked mine up “The Synonym Finder” by J.I. Rodale and Staff, copyright 1961 sixth printing—March 1967. It is hardback also and I leave it open on my desk when I write always ready to come to my aid. My copy came with a little note that reads, “To Ann Dickson Newman—so that she may speak and write with correctness, accuracy, and precision. Love, Papa – April 18, 1970.” I read that note often and I am always touched that someone thought enough of another person to purchase such a thoughtful tool.

You can find an inexpensive thesaurus almost anywhere, probably even at the dollar store. In addition, most word processing software has a built-in thesaurus, be quick to use it.

Someone may ask why we would want to use words we don’t already know the meaning of. Well, we should always be open to expanding our vocabulary. And, we all know and basically understand literally thousands of words when we read them. If we don’t know the exact meaning, we can deduce the meaning depending on the context and other words in a sentence. However, when we write, we have to be sure we are writing our words correctly. There can be no question or our readers will catch them in a heartbeat. It goes to the integrity of our writing where I intended for integrity in this sentence to capture its double meaning, whole and honest.

What did you think of my use of the word vespertine in the short story in lesson 6? It was during one of these vespertine visits that Matthew spoke his first word.

I could have written “evening” but I had already used enough words to indicate that we met sometime in between the afternoon to late night and I like to add a little touch of elegance. I could have replaced elegance in the previous sentence with variety, style, panache, or finesse.

We can use the synonym finder to help us avoid overuse of certain words. To me, unless there is a specific reason for emphasis we should never use the same word more than once in a sentence and preferably not more than once in a single paragraph. If there is a reason to repeat a word several times during an article, look for other words that mean something similar or that provide a more exact meaning each time it is written.

When I opened my synonym finder today, the note was between pages 828 and 829 and the word my eye went to was oppose. Most of us understand what oppose means so let’s see.

Dictionary Definition of Verb Oppose:
1. Disapprove of and attempt to prevent, especially by argument: “Those who oppose capital punishment”
2. Actively resist or refuse to comply with (a person or a system).

Synonyms for Oppose: (just a few)
• Counterbalance, like when we sit on a see-saw, the two opposing forces balance in such a way that we can rise up and down without much exertion
• Resist, can mean to push back against an aggressor, or run against as in opponents in an election
• Withstand, contest, strive, contend, struggle, counteract, repulse, repel, make a stand against, confront, face, fight, war, battle, joust, clash, scuffle, wrestle, attack, assault, grapple with
• Contradict, defy, withstand, antagonize, obstruct, check, thwart, block, interdict, embargo, hinder, impede, veto, oppugn, resist, restrain, inhibit, constrain, interfere, bar, barricade, prohibit, foil, cross, confound, traverse, repel, frustrate, recalcitrate, repulse, protest

Most of us understand the meaning of nearly all of the above synonyms and with so many to choose from, we should never write the word oppose multiple times in any article. Think about the context of your idea and select other words that convey an accurate meaning to your audience. Consider the following:

Best friends Jim and Joe signed up as members of the same wrestling team but during practice the coach lined them up against each other on opposing teams. It was not long before they lay on the mat, each struggling to overpower the other.

At first when you start looking up words in a thesaurus, your articles may not read as well as you would like but soon with a little practice and encouragement you will be selecting with the best of them.

I believe we will continue on choosing the Right Word in the next lesson.

by Wayne Brady 1/15/2013

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