Tip #19: Use the Thesaurus at Your Own Risk
Be cautious about using a thesaurus. A thesaurus is a great tool for reminding us of words we know but that don’t come readily to mind. Be careful, however, about using unfamiliar words in your writing. Words listed in a thesaurus as synonyms often carry connotations that might make them inappropriate for particular uses. Referring to someone as slender or svelte is not the same as calling them cadaverous or emaciated, though they are technically synonyms.
One student of mine described an old table in a paper as “antediluvian.” I asked her if she had used a thesaurus. She said, “Yes. How did you know?”
I said, “Because antediluvian means ‘before the Flood.’”
Use a thesaurus. It’s a wonderful resource. Just be sure you really know the word before using it in your writing.
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