We humans are creatures of habit. Whether it’s eating the same cereal for breakfast or taking the same route to work, it’s easy to fall into ruts. This includes the words we tend to use when we talk or write.
I’m as guilty as anyone. When I reread my first draft of an article, I often find words making repeat performances. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest things for any writer to fix. Either restructure the sentence or find a word replacement. (Or maybe a little of both.)
Synonyms are a mouse-click away in most word processing programs. You’ll find more and better ideas, however, if you use a thesaurus. They’re readily available online. But why settle for a plain-vanilla thesaurus when you can have words served up in a visually delightful way? Here are four options:
1. Visual Thesaurus
Type a word into Visual Thesaurus and related words emerge, clustered around it. Hover your mouse over any dot and a definition appears. Click on a word, and it moves to the center, drawing a new set of relationships.
How might this be helpful? For starters, imagine you’re writing a description for a real estate property listing. Sure, the home is beautiful, but you don’t want to use “beautiful” to describe each of the property’s selling points.
Most people don’t think of property descriptions as creative writing projects. However, being the first words a potential buyer reads, property descriptions must immediately grab and hold their interest. If you are a real estate agent struggling for new word choices, Visual Thesaurus can be a fun and handy source of inspiration.
It’s easy to get lost in a tool like this. My curiosity often draws me deeper and deeper into an exploration of words. But I almost always find excellent word replacements and pick up a few interesting tidbits along the way.
Years ago, Visual Thesaurus was a one-time software download. Now it’s a subscription-based service ($2.95 per month or $19.95 a year after a 14-day free trial). It also includes three more services—Spelling Bee, VocabGrabber, and an online magazine.
Don’t want to pay for your thesaurus? Then you might prefer Lexipedia. It’s not as full-featured as Visual Thesaurus, but then it’s free. You’ll still find color-coded distinctions between nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.
Like Lexipedia, this online graphical dictionary is built on Princeton University’s WordNet open source database. Personally, I find the numerous color-coded distinctions between words that are “similar to,” “is a kind of,” “is a member of,” etc. overly complex. But again, it’s free.
4. Snappy Words
Another free online thesaurus, Snappy Words closely resembles Lexipedia in the way words are presented. The full-view option is a nice addition, making it easier to see all the results for words that render multiple relationships.
Some of these sites also offer foreign language options, another good feature if you’re working on translations.