How to use Synonyms
To choose synonyms, you should consider several key things besides a word’s definition:
- Connotation—do you want your meaning to be positive, negative, or neutral?
- Type of Writing—is your work informative, persuasive, creative?
- Audience—who has to understand the words: children, teenagers, adults?
- Purpose—are you choosing words for descriptions like characterization, setting, etc?
While this may seem like a lot to think about, in reality, using synonyms comes naturally in our everyday speech. We take in our surroundings all the time—audience, setting, situation—and speak accordingly, sometimes even subconsciously. So, you choose synonyms to use in your writing just like you do when speaking.
When to use Synonyms
Synonyms are (and should be) used all the time! It’s important to know which synonyms to use when writing in different styles, genres, and forms of writing—creative, formal, informal, fiction, nonfiction and so on. For instance, read the two sentences below:
- Informative: Beavers are mammals. They are skilled swimmers, and make their habitats in rivers, called dams.
- Creative: Beavers are furry animals that spend their lives swimming and collecting. They find twigs and branches from forest around them to create amazing homes on the river, called dams.
What’s more, proper word choice is important when writing for readers of all ages—for instance, the synonyms you choose for children’s literature should be simpler than those you used when writing young adult literature:
- Children’s: The fuzzy yellow duckies went splish splash splish splash in the morning rain.
- Young Adult: The ducklings, still with soft yellow feathers, waddled back and forth in the puddles after the dawn showers.
Furthermore, synonyms can also be used when you make a thought more or less simple or complete, or more or less detailed or descriptive. For example:
Going up the tall mountain was difficult.
Ascending the towering, elevated mountain was easier said than done.
The first sentence gets the point across to the audience. But, the second one uses synonyms to give a better idea of the situation and the author’s view. So, based on what you want to tell your audience, you can decide when to use which synonyms.