Finding the right word to express an idea or an emotion has always been the writer’s nemesis. Seldom does the word chosen seem right.
To chose the right word the writer must be convinced of his or her own feelings. Unless the writer is sure of how he or she is convinced of an idea, or how he or she understands an emotion it is impossible to choose the exact word to express that idea or that sensation.
It follows that the writer’s sentiment about the idea or feeling must be intense and sincere. If they are then the words to express it genuinely and honest will come. But this does not mean that they do not require revision and circumspection. Each word must be thought of carefully and explored for naturalness.
This search delves into the writer’s experience, vocabulary, and then the thesaurus, but this is to recall words that have been experienced and are part of the active vocabulary. Words that are part of the passive or known vocabulary should not be used, as they do not have the familiarity of the active vocabulary.
The dictionary should not be used to find the right word unless it is used to augment the knowledge that the writer already has about the word. Just as the dictionary should not be used to dig up the right word, the thesaurus should only be used to recall the right word that is a part of the active vocabulary.
The right word must always be experienced before it should be used.
Charles O. Goulet has a BA in history and a BEd in English literature so he writes historical novels, most based on Canadian history. He may be contacted at: