How ten cent words will improve your copy

Perhaps the most indispensable tool for a copywriter, right behind the computer, is a thesaurus.

A thesaurus is a simple but powerful way to make your writing more compelling and persuasive.

As Strunk & White said in The Elements of Style, “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

If you find yourself using a twenty-dollar work, or you notice that you use the same word too often on a page (I try not to use the same verb more than once in a paragraph, for example), whip out a thesaurus.

Let’s take a look at some print/offline thesauruses:

Rodale’s Synonym Finder The Synonym Finder is terrific. An Amazon reviewer sums it up well: “There are 1.5 million words in “The Synonym Finder”, including variations on the same root word. That’s more than 4 times the number of words in “Roget’s International Thesaurus”. If you simply want to find synonyms, this is the book for you. It isn’t as versatile as a thesaurus that is organized by subject, but it’s more to the point and easier to use if you are simply looking for word alternatives.”

Roget’s Thesaurus Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition
is the classic thesaurus and is also organized by subject in addition to alphabetically. It’s a bit more scholarly than Rodale’s Synonym Finder.

Here are some online thesauruses: has a thesaurus and much more. In addition to giving you the synonyms for each word it gives you the dictionary definition and a description of the history of the word as well as information about foreign language and idioms. It’s a complete reference for words. is similar to It gives you encyclopedia and dictionary information in addition to the thesaurus.

If you enjoy mind maps you’ll enjoy Visual Thesaurus. Go to the website and in the white box type a word. Then select “look it up.” A box will come up. Select “try.” After a few seconds it will expand and grow. It’s like a living thesaurus. The desktop version works faster than the online version. It’s $19.95 per year or $2.95 per month.

If you have a favorite thesaurus please share it in the comments.

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