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Developing Vocabulary 

Another simple but effective way of finding the right word is to think about subtle differences between synonyms. While writing, if you don’t know a synonym for a word, you can look it up in a thesaurus. Similarly, for many word processing programs, you can right-click on a word to find synonyms. If you need more inspiration, you can continue looking through entries for different words until you find the right one.  

In general, reading broadly is a strong strategy for developing and expanding one’s vocabulary; reading texts similar in style and purpose can help one gain a better sense of what diction “works” in that context. Oftentimes, this search for the “perfect word” is a matter of understanding how small distinctions in meaning and connotation can contribute to a larger mood or tone, or give the audience more specific details. 

For example, dialogue is a common feature in narrative writing, so many creative writers will try to find synonyms for the word “said” to avoid monotony and repetition. If every dialogue scene sounded like, “He said, she said, they said,” the reader would get bored fairly quickly, and they would miss important details about how the character is speaking and what they’re feeling. For this reason, many writers will use more specific dialogue tags (words used to “tag” or introduce a quote) that explain the type of speaking—for example, instead of “said,” writers can use “asked,” “replied, “yelled,” “cried,” “whispered,” and so on.  

And within these categories, there are further and even more specific synonyms. Consider how “queried,” “interrogated,” “wondered,” or “inquired” each mean something slightly different and more specific than the more general “asked.” Using specific and interesting diction where appropriate can help readers  better understand  enjoy the piece they’re reading.