Using Visual Thesaurus by Meggin McIntosh, PhD

Jan 24th, 2013

dictionaryWriters love words.  That’s a bold statement, don’t you think?!  Given that we love words, here’s a tool for exploring words and expanding your writing: Visual Thesaurus.

I have been an aficionado for at least 5 – 6 years. I use this tool every day and have given it as a gift to MANY of my friends. Here are my top ten tips for increasing your productivity with Visual Thesaurus.

  1. Own it. You can purchase it for on-line use (and pay a yearly fee of $19.95).  I buy the on-line version every year so I have access anywhere I’m on-line.
  2. Test out a trial version if you’re not sure.  Just go to the link Visual Thesaurus and you will see the option to test out a few words.  Pick some interesting words that you know you use in your writing and see what options pop up for you.  You’ll see the words displayed in visual arrays (get it?…it’s a “visual” thesaurus) that show the relationships between and among the various words.
  3. Use it by pulling arrays from Visual Thesaurus into your PowerPoint® presentations or the Word docs you are creating.  There aren’t directions shown anywhere about this, but I had a secret source within the company and this is what she shared (and it works).Set up the array the way that you want it.  Then, click anywhere inside the array and press Ctrl + Shift.  Next, left click and drag the array over to the document where you want it.  It doesn’t look like anything is happening but when you release the mouse button and the keys, it will open up as a graphic on your slide (or wherever you have dragged it).
  4. Use it to look up words that you are using (duh) but not necessarily to find alternatives in the typical way we think about using a thesaurus. Rather, see if the suggestions prompt some fresh thinking on your part regarding whatever it is that you are writing about.  This happens for me all the time and either gives me a fresh boost or helps me get “unstuck.”Use it when you are writing titles for articles, books, and conference presentations.  You want your titles to be informative and interesting and Visual Thesaurus helps you create such titles.
  5. Use it when you are writing query letters or letters to accompany a proposal. You want to shine in those letters so demonstrate that you know a variety of interesting words (and of course, only use the ones you actually know!)
  6. Keep it open all the time for easy access.  As a writer, it is common for us to keep using the same words repeatedly and by having this tool already open and ready, we’re more likely to quickly find an alternative to a word that is appearing far too often in our text.
  7. Use it to find words in various parts of speech.  Sometimes you might be writing about something and you want to stay in the same vicinity in terms of meaning but you want to make your writing more interesting by using compelling verbs rather than more adjectives, for example.  Visual Thesaurus shows parts of speech and you can either turn off or on that feature, depending on what you’re working on.  Generally, I like having that displayed.
  8. If you teach – at the college, university, high school, or elementary school (as well as individual coaching you may do with other writers), encourage your students to use this tool, too.
  9. Donate copies (subscriptions) to your local schools.  You can receive educational discount pricing and I am quite sure the schools in your area would appreciate the donation.

Note:  Ask about the availability of this product in Spanish.  I know they were working on that and it may now be ready.

© Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D. (also known as “The PhD of Productivity”®). One of the ways that you can learn from Meggin about productive writing is through her 30 Articles in Just 30 Days.

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