15Writing with Specific Details

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

Synonym: a word or expression that means almost the same thing as another word; ex “tall” & “high” 

Have you ever been in this situation?

James:
Hello Akiko! How was your trip to London?
Akiko:
It was great. Everyone was great! The food was also...great. And the city was...well...great... I really had a great time...

In the situation above, Akiko was unable to find any synonyms for the word “great”. As a result, her vocabulary was just repeated over and over again. Most speakers of English use a variety of words and synonyms when they speak & write. At NIC, students use synonyms a lot when they write essays, prepare speeches, and discuss in English.

Here’s a great book that everyone should buy!

A thesaurus (a book of synonyms)
Danny’ recommendation: Roget’s Thesaurus, (found in many bookstores around the world & it has children’s → college editions).

When using a thesaurus to find synonyms, remember:

  • A thesaurus should be used when you are repeating the same words a lot.
  • Not all synonyms that you find have the same exact meaning!
  • You must check the meaning of every synonym that you learn in a regular dictionary! (many Japanese students use synonyms incorrectly in speech and especially in writing)

Remember the first example with tall and high. Well, look below...

CORRECT
Landmark Tower is a tall building.
CORRECT
New York City has many high buildings.

The case above is OK! You can say a building is tall or high in English.

However...

CORRECT
Takuto is a very tall boy.
WRONG!
Takuto is a very high boy.

As you can see, it is very important to look up any synonyms that you find before you use them!

Now take a look at the same conversation above with the usage of synonyms.

James:
Hello Akiko! How was your trip to London?
Akiko:
It was great. Everyone was wonderful! The food was also fantastic! And the city was terrific! I really had a fabulous time...

SPECIAL NOTE:

Most students don’t know this. If your computer has Microsoft Word (U.S. version), you already have a thesaurus! Use it sometimes to find synonyms of words in English. But again remember to check how the word is used if it is a new one for you.

How to use the Microsoft Word (U.S. version) thesaurus

First, highlight the word for which you need a synonym.

Second, click on Tools & then Language. You will see the word Thesaurus. Click on it.

Third, take a look at the choices the computer gives you and use your own dictionary to look at sample sentences with the word. If the word seems right for you, click on it.

When you speak and write in English, try to use more synonyms and make sure that you use your vocabulary journal (4/1/04) to remember the meaning of each word that you learn! Good luck!