Searching for the Right Words? Tip #16

dance girl

This series aims at helping writers find the right words to express their meaning. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Do you want to inspire readers with joy, stoke their terrors, romance them with love, fill them with horror? This set of posts looks at ways of influencing mood by selecting the ‘right’ words for the job.


“On the way back to the car, he offered to cover me with his jacket, but I didn’t want to hide my new looks, as I felt so much more alive than I had before.’

This gives the reader some idea of the changes that have taken place in the heroine, but it’s really no more than a statement of fact.

Let’s try again.

“On the way back to the car park, he offered me his jacket because the night had grown chill. But I felt alive and warm. I wanted no encumbrances; nothing to hide the magic of my new attractive looks. I wanted to move and run and dance and sing. I felt so full of wonderful joy and elation, so overflowing with new feelings.”

From my romantic thriller, Breaking Faith, this sample shows the reader the nature of those changes and creates an image of a young woman celebrating her new-found confidence.

If nothing else, I hope this series will enhance our writing with words that more precisely reflect what we’re trying to convey to readers.

I use Roget’s Thesaurus when editing, the 1987 edition, which I started with; it still lives within reach on my reference shelf. Other books of word choices, which I consult when the apposite word continues to evade me, live with it. But first I try to gather that ‘right’ word from the void within my skull: it’s good mental exercise.

Any thesaurus will provide alternatives for the idea of the word you seek, but not all those suggestions are true synonyms, so always consider context.

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