A synonym is simply a word that means the same as the given word. It comes from the Greek “syn” and “onym,” which mean “together” and “name,” respectively. When speaking or writing, one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary and to avoid using the same words repeatedly is to use a thesaurus to find synonyms (similar meaning words). A thesaurus is a general phrase that describes a type of dictionary that provides a list of words that have the same or similar meaning as the word referenced. For example, if you were to look up the word “beautiful,” you might get a listing of more than thirty words that have similar meanings. There are many forms of a thesaurus from Roget’s Thesaurus, authored by Peter Mark Roget and published in 1852, to online materials available from companies that specialize in educational resources.
Why is it important to use synonyms in your speech or writing? It is important because synonyms can improve both your oral skills and your writing skills, as noted in the following section.
Benefits of Using Synonyms
Some of the benefits of using synonyms are that they can:
- Make text much more captivating.
- Help avoid dull text.
- Improve communication between you and others.
- Help provide an image in the mind of the reader.
- Help avoid boring and repetitive text.
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For example, instead of using the word “beautiful” several times in your text, you might use synonyms such as “gorgeous,” “stunning,” or “ravishing” to better paint a picture of your description. Using just one word repeatedly will ensure that you will lose the attention of your audience simply out of boredom!
It is quite easy to build your arsenal of synonyms, and the list of tools later in this article will help you get started. As with any efforts to increase your vocabulary, it is helpful to keep a journal or list of new words to which to refer. It is also helpful to use those new synonyms often to keep them in your memory. The more you use new words, the more quickly they will come to mind in your oral or written presentations.
Plagiarism is a serious issue for writers and editors and is considered copyright infringement. It is particularly serious for academic researchers because plagiarizing someone else’s work in a research document can diminish or even destroy their professional credibility. Any works that you refer to in your writings that are not your original thoughts or ideas should be correctly cited and referenced. Must you always use direct quotations? Not necessarily, but any part of the original text that you include in your paraphrased text should be in quotation marks.
Paraphrasing allows us to reduce a very lengthy quotation by using fewer words to convey the same message, and it can help avoid the temptation to use too many quotations. This is where synonyms come in handy, but you must be mindful of what words to use.
When paraphrasing, be sure that the words you choose to replace the original idea are true synonyms. For example, the original phrase, “It was a dark day,” could mean more than one thing. It could mean that the weather was gloomy or that the person’s mood was somber and depressed. Be sure that you grasp the original idea and use words that will convey the same meaning.
Several books and websites can help you build your dictionary of synonyms. One of the most often used publications is Roget’s Thesaurus, which is available in both hardcopy and electronically after downloading from an online source. Some more examples are as follows:
- The Visual Thesaurus® is an interactive dictionary that allows you to type in a word for which you want a synonym and then creates “word maps” of related words. It also provides definitions.
- Thesaurus.com is another interactive reference tool that not only provides http://www.thesaurus.com/synonyms and other related words, but also categorizes them based on complexity and length, and whether the word is used formally or informally. The site also features a “word of the day” as an aid for building your vocabulary.
- Synonyms.net provides synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and even translation of the word into several other languages.
- Reverso Dictionary not only provides synonyms but also translations of a word in other languages.
Learning to use synonyms effectively can help you better communicate your ideas. Clear and concise text using a variety of synonyms can provide your readers with more interesting reading that will hold their interest. After all, this is ultimately the goal in academic writing so that new topics and research can be clearly presented to anyone interested.