Hints & Tips

Much of what we do involves providing insightful writing critiques for new and established authors developing their writing. However, we also provide a range of free resources to support individuals which can be downloaded below. We are constantly looking to better support those wishing to improve their writing and endeavour to update this page with more hints and tips as regularly as possible.

Thesaurus: use (apply, employ, practise, utilise, exercise, make use of) or lose (forget, drop, misplace, fail to keep)

Thesaurus: use (apply, employ, practise, utilise, exercise, make use of) or lose (forget, drop, misplace, fail to keep)

As writers, something we all aim for is to avoid sounding clichéd and repetitive. Our language constantly changes. It evolves to reflect the lives we inhabit; new words and expressions appear, others become less fashionable. In technology and media-driven societies, we often have new words thrust into the limelight. For some of us they roll around our psyche wondering how, when or if at all to make an appearance. A few years ago I asked my niece to take a selfie of me! She gently put me straight. Today, the concept of selfie is a global phenomenon; it has got people into all sorts of trouble and questions whether we’re creating a generation of narcissists. ‘Selfie’ was the outright winner of Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 Word of the Year. Though as yet, there doesn’t seem to be another word or expression synonymous with it. I entered ‘selfie’ into several online thesaurus’, only to receive the familiar response, ‘did you mean…’ Brexit is another example (did I mean breast?) According to Global Language Monitor, ‘Brexit’ ranks 6th in the top words for 2017, but so far I can’t find a replacement.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say is, you won’t always find or need a substitute word, although sometimes a thesaurus can be the writer’s most cherished instrument. The word itself has Greek origins meaning treasure. Indeed, I find it is a treasure trove of words when I’m absorbed in the adventure that is fiction writing. I have Wordsworth and Collins paperbacks and will happily use any online resources. There’s also a thesaurus on my toolbar which I refer to more and more now that I mostly word process rather than handwrite. While writing, I’ll sometimes find myself repeating a particular word, especially when my train of thought is concentrated on plot or moving the action forward. One of my short stories involves a young girl’s journey in the dark. I wanted to convey waves of fear and suspense in the fifteen minute walk from a fairground to her home. I already knew how the plot would turn out, it was just a case of choosing the right words to make it exciting for readers. I was using the words; run, ran and running too much but couldn’t think of alternatives off the top of my head as I was too focussed on getting the character out of her perceived danger. The thesaurus suggested alternatives that I played around with until I was happy with the flow of the piece;
They race up Hawthorn Lane…“Anyway if we keep running”…the girls are reduced to jogging… “I’ll just make a dash for it”… “you best hurry”…Paula darts across the road…Running might attract attention…Picking up pace…Paula wastes no time getting to her feet, sprinting up past the last of the empty street’s houses…
Writing about the journey and its events took up one side of A4. As you can see, if I hadn’t thought more about my use of the word ‘run’ I’m pretty sure the story would sound boring.
Added by Alison Tait on 19-06-2018