Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thesaurus—A Treasure Box for Writers

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Thesaurus—a treasure box for writers.
While touring the Acropolis Museum in Greece, I stumbled upon a stone relic that caused me to smile, as though I’d just learned a powerful secret. The English translation said simply: thesaurus, a treasure box.

The meaning that fueled my interest is the idea of a storehouse or a treasury. The ancient Greeks used a thesaurus to store treasures, and for writers, our words are our treasures.

Since grade school, we’ve used a thesaurus to find a list of synonyms and sometimes antonyms for specific words. This valuable resource helps writers locate specific words when the ones normally used are not exactly what we intend or the concept needs to be bigger, more definite, unique, or the writer wishes to avoid repetition. Meanings twist and turn according to culture, dates used, and what the writer is desperately seeking.

Word lovers can get lost in a thesaurus.

There are dangers with the treasure box.
But there are dangers in tossing aside creativity and diving into a treasure box each time we want to sound distinct or extraordinary. The result builds barriers in our writing. We lose our voice and our character’s voice in an endless pursuit of the perfect word when often the most common fits our passage. Communicating with our readers is an invitation to a relationship. We want to use appropriate and recognizable language not chase them away with word choices that send them to the dictionary.

A treasure box is valuable when we open the lid rarely. For then the jewels inside are priceless and we value their worth.

Years ago, I started a treasury of words and their meanings. I titled them, “Di Words.” Those gems were the ones in which their sound and meaning appealed to me, the way they rolled off my tongue and their detail. I wanted to use them for special characters and how they viewed life, to bury them deep in narrative where they could be explored and mined like treasure. Many times only one of those words was used throughout the story because a gem is of immeasurable worth.

A thesaurus is indeed a storehouse of treasures. Used sparingly, they cause our writing to sparkle—overuse and our readers are blinded.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. 

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. 

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at

Used sparingly a thesaurus can make #writing sparkle, with overuse readers are blinded @DiAnnMills (Click to Tweet)


  1. DiAnn Thank you for sharing. I love using a Thesaurus. It truly is a treasure box. I find words that I never knew existed. While writing, I often get stuck on one word; can't get it out of my head. I like the word but the readers don't want to see it over and over again. My Treasure Box helps me find a better one

  2. My favorite Treasure Box is the Flip Dictionary. I tend to dig inside when I have a paragraph or section where the subject is voiced more than once. I like to change up its name. That's when they really come in handy.

  3. I love words and everything about them! Thanks for posting!

  4. Great post, DiAnn, especially the part about sending the reader to the dictionary. I get very frustrated when I'm reading a book and have to keep a pen and pad handy to write down all the words I need to look up. This is when less is definitely more. :)

    1. Thank you Andrea. My point is to tell a story not give an English lesson. :)

  5. DiAnn, thank you for your post. What a great analogy -- because our words ARE treasures, aren't they?! And what a lovely way of expressing the balance we must master -- using thesaurus treasures to sparkle and not to blind. Excellent!

    1. Hi June, Yes! Let's sparkle and not blind. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Excellent post. I'm linking to it on July 17th. :)

  7. Thank you for sharing this! I love that thesaurus means treasure box. :)