How to Use Thesaurus Properly

‘Family, Daily Living & Style’

Thesaurus is just a reference that comes pre-installed in Microsoft Word, it is offline mode.  It lists the synonyms (words with the same meaning) and antonyms (opposite meaning) of a word. You could NOT completely rely on it on choosing the most appropriate word for a context.  Here are the reminders one should always remember in using every writer’s bestfriend – the Thesaurus:

Choose the most appropriate word, first identify the part of speech where it (the word you want to replace) belongs – how it is being used in the sentence. You cannot find that FACT on a dictionary, the sentence will tell you.  Mastering the parts of speech will help a lot.

The brethren will go to the Philippine Arena for the 101st Anniversary Celebration.

Let us study the sentence above. And I have highlighted the word ‘go’.   If you encoded ‘go’ in your Microsoft Word’s Thesaurus:

Step 1:

On your word document, go to the tool bar on top click on the ‘Review’ tab

Step 2
Hit the ‘Thesaurus’ button on the left side.  

Step 3
Then when it appears on the right side of your document encode the word you want to find its synonyms on the space below ‘search for:’  example the word ‘go’ then press ENTER KEY.

Thesaurus will yield result that offers you synonyms in different parts of speech may be nouns or verbs depending on the word you encoded (encoded is the right term to use when typing in a computer ) – you have to select carefully what is appropriate, scroll down to see the full search result. The first word written in bold (the headword/guideword) for every given set of synonyms in different functions in speech is usually the most familiar word in the set, from there we could base our BEST CHOICE.

In the example I have given above, we wanted to replace ‘go’ with another word that EXACTLY implies the same meaning as it is being used in our sentence. 

Wrong choice sample:

The brethren will expire to the Philippine Arena for the 101st Anniversary Celebration.

‘Expire’ is a verb too, but we used ‘go’ not to mean as ‘to die’, see the set where the word ‘expire’ belongs – it is under the heading die (v.) as written in bold letters.  That would actually mean –‘ the children will die to the beach’, absurd of course!

‘Go’ in our sample sentence is used to mean - travel (v.) if we are to choose from the set of given synonyms.  I will opt to use ‘proceed’ instead.

Let us do the most PROPER replacement:

The brethren will proceed to the Philippine Arena for the 101st Anniversary Celebration.

The meaning is intact or unchanged or unharmed. The word ‘proceed’ means the same idea as we wanted to imply when we still have ‘go’ as our verb. The other words in the sentence are kept like in the ORIGINAL sentence if you notice.


Let us move-on to another example:

The talk is an awesome approach to start the Centennial Anniversary preparation.

On the above sentence we may have used “talk” all over for example, on our essay.  Then we wanted to replace it. Seeing how it is being used in the sentence, it is being used as a NOUN. That means we have to IGNORE all the other synonyms listed as ‘ (v.)’ or verb on the Thesaurus  yield when we type the word ‘talk’ only look at the  ‘(n.) or noun’ yield. We will narrow our choice on the synonyms with head words as (n.).

I would want to choose ‘discussion’ among the list. Say I am still not happy with the word, my first choice can also be clicked to yield another set of synonyms. Doing that I found ‘symposium’ – and for me it is the most appropriate to use.

i. e. (that is)

The symposium is an awesome approach to start the Centennial Anniversary preparation.

Analyzing our original sentence, we can see that we succeeded to suggest the real idea within; still with just a single word being replaced while keeping the rest of the sentence intact.


Let us try another example:

A good leader is a good follower.

The sentence above is a familiar axiom.  We certainly knew what the word ‘good’ there actually means. Since we sometimes feel tired of hearing or using the word ‘good’ over and over again, let us find the most suitable replacement for the word. We found that the word ‘good’ there is an adjective and not a noun in use, being a modifier to the ‘leader’. So we eliminate the headword in synonyms yield that says (n.) We limit our search to the headwords with label (adj.)

Wrong choice would be:

A sound leader is a good follower.

From the headword ‘suitable (adj.)’ we can find that word ‘sound’, it is an adjective too, that is a bit tricky. But it gives a not so clear or confusing idea to us of what a ‘good’ leader should be.  Clicking on the word ‘sound’ in the Thesaurus yield – there, we could find the other synonyms of the word – it implies many things BUT not what we wanted to imply to suffice our replacement.  Words under the headword labeled as SOUND as an adjective are ‘complete’, ‘whole’, ‘thorough’ although ‘good’ is listed too – but reading the synonyms listed below it -  such as ‘firm’, ‘unassailable’, ‘positive’ etc. no way we could suggest the same idea as the original context implies.

Here is my personal choice as among the most appropriate (meaning there are still other words that we may use instead):

From the headword ‘decent (adj.)’ (going back to ‘good’ as our search word) , I found the word ‘virtuous’ as the most appropriate BUT I do not think that my student readers who are not so fluent in English can understand it. I decided to click on the word ‘virtuous’ to find another word that suits the need.  There I found ‘righteous’.


A righteous leader is a good follower.

Please take note that honest’ and ‘upright’ may also be used instead. Both words are located
on the list of the synonyms for ‘virtuous’.

I do hope that I have given you some helpful ideas on the use of THESAURUS and that the examples I have provided are enough to clarify confusion on your part.  I also aimed to caution you with just picking words randomly without analyzing the meaning it would give in case substituted, I hope my fellow writers shall be well-guided too.

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Family, Daily Living & Style by Angelita Galiza-Madera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.