Richard Lane Church, Author

Use Your Writing Talent to Make Money

Copywriting * Content Writing * Fiction

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Mark Twain
Portrait of Mark Twain, who always was able to find the right word when writing and speaking.
Mark Twain always found the right
word in his fiction and conversation.

All writing is done with a single purpose in mind, to communicate with the reader. Whether you are writing a novel, short story, educational piece, or advertising, the right word elicits the exact response you want from your reader.

In the online writing groups I participate in, people debate the value of using a thesaurus. Like any tool, a thesaurus is neither good nor bad; how it is used can be either. For example, in a story about a sick person, light-skinned or pale does not convey the same meaning as pasty, which implies illness, discomfort, weakness, etc.

How to Use a Thesaurus Correctly

The right use of a thesaurus (and MSWord has a great, built-in one) helps you find similar, but not exactly the same, words. Most of the time, the right words flow from me. When it doesn’t, there are two options:
1) type a placeholder like fffffffff for now so I can easily find the spot once the right word appears in my mind, or
2) type the almost right word and edit it later using the thesaurus.

After finishing the paragraph, page, or chapter (remember “Write first, Edit second”), go back to those almost right entries and view them in the thesaurus. Within the list of similar words, you may find the exact right word you are looking for.

The wrong way to use a thesaurus is to find a show-off word. It may sound more exact, but if your audience does not understand its meaning, then you are not communicating. No one wants to stop reading an action scene or love scene to look up a word. And if the passage is understood without the word, why is it even there?

My Favorite Editing Technique

In addition to using Grammarly to catch my typos and misspellings, my favorite way of editing my writing is to read it aloud. This method catches awkward phrases, wordiness, missing information, and words that are not as powerful as they could be. Often the rightward appears in your head when you hear the almost right word.

View Patricia J. Parsons’s excellent short video on Finding the Right Word at

Online Software to Help Find the Right Word

Have fun!

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