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Friday, 21 November 2014

The Power Thesaurus Reviewed.

As an occasional contributor to the Quora question site, I was sent a question today. It introduced me to a writing resource I hadn’t previously known. The Power Thesaurus is a crowdsourced tool for those seeking alternative words for their writing.

I generally use either my 1987 edition of the good old Roget’s Thesaurus, or the inbuilt thesaurus from Encyclopaedia Britannica online, to which I belong because I bought a print version of the books way back in 1994. Normally, I try to dig alternative words from my own disorganised vocabulary, which nestles chaotically entwined with numerous memories and wordy files within the otherwise inaccessible confines of my brain. But that organic resource has its limits and often refuses to cooperate when a search is made for le bon mot.

So, a tool of some sort is vital when it comes to the editing stage (I never bother to instigate a search for the right word whilst creating; it interrupts the flow). Roddy Doyle famously said, ‘Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed…or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort.’ And I can empathise with that injunction: things found without effort are generally undervalued. But sometimes the brain just fails to deliver, and it is then that help is needed.

The Power Thesaurus is a comprehensive tool. It usefully provides antonyms as well as the usual synonyms. It is grammatically and syntactically accurate for the most part, but accepts corrections, additions and amendments from the using community, so is subject to the inevitable errors such liberty allows. Users can vote up or down the suggested alternatives, ranking them according to personal taste. It provides vulgar and vernacular alternatives; a useful help when writing dialogue. For some words, it provides hundreds of alternatives spread over many pages: I tried ‘change’ and it came up with 1000 suggestions!

Of course, there will be those who fail to understand the real purpose of a thesaurus, who will select random suggested words in the expectation that their ‘enhanced’ sentences will thereby be more admired when, in fact, they will simply reveal the writers as twits with no real understanding of the language. But, used judiciously, this is a resource that will aid many writers and I recommend it to you.

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