Ah, the thesaurus. Friend of stumped writers the world over. You may think that cracking open a thesaurus when you’re having a hard time figuring out a different way to say a word you’ve already used seventeen times in the last paragraph, and you would probably be right. However, the thesaurus comes with some strong warnings.
While two words may have almost the same dictionary definition, they can have very different connotations when used. For example, cheap and thrifty both mean that someone is careful with money. However, while you may want to be called thrifty, being called cheap isn’t nearly as flattering. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use a thesaurus for any situation; in fact, you can often find exciting new synonyms that will help make your writing that much more powerful. However, make sure you know the exact meaning of the words you put into your writing.
A good rule I’ve found for my own writing is that I won’t use a word unless I know what it means. Sometimes, I have to look up words in the dictionary (or, admittedly, do a quick Google search), but by the time I let anyone else see my paper I’m positive that my word choices are the best that they can be. To many people who frequently read written work (i.e. teachers, publishers, etc.), overuse of a thesaurus is readily evident but also easily remedied. Save your thesaurus words for the times when you really need an extra oomph, not just when you’re trying to sound intelligent. The ideas you put into your writing will make you sound far more intelligent than misusing a thesaurus.