I’ve done a lot of different stuff with my life. Or, another way to say it, is that I’ve worn a lot of different hats. But one thing that I can say was similar from each job I had, was that there were different tools that I needed for each job. When I was a mechanic, I needed wrenches and ratchets. When I was a carpenter apprentice, I needed a hammer and a measuring tape. When I was a corrections officer, I needed pepper spray and a radio. Catch my drift? Every profession utilizes tools.
Writing is no different.
There are certain writing tools that you should have within reach when you sit down to write. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about. And it definitely doesn’t’ matter if you’re writing for yourself or a client. I typically have 3 different tools that I use on a regular basis. You could download them electronically, or you could go buy them at the local book store. I personally prefer Amazon, though.
The tool I use the most is a thesaurus. I absolutely love using it. Actually, mine is sitting on my desk, at my left hand. You know why? Because it is powerful! If you use a thesaurus correctly, it can give your writing a flare that other writings don’t have.
Let’s go one step further, and take a look at one of the favored words within the copywriting world: “free”.
The word “free” is one of the most used words in copywriting because it gets the job done. It gets the point across. But you know what? Everybody uses it. All the decent copywriters use it if they want to succeed. But, that can also be a problem. Let’s take a gander at all the possibilities of the word “free” in a thesaurus:
The meaning of the word we are going for is “given without charge” Here ya go:
Gratuitous, gratis, for nothing, for love, without charge, free of cost, complimentary, for free, for love, on the house, cuffo, as a comp, for a thank you, free for nothing.
See all of those words and phrases? I emboldened the ones that I use. Complimentary and without charge are likely the best. That is just one example of how to make your work stand out against the others. If you were to use a thesaurus for different words each time you write, you’ll get better at writing, and strengthen your vocab as well.
A dictionary should be in every household. I’m not talking about one of those complimentary (see what I did there?) ones that you could get on your phone. Do they work? Sure. But, are you positive that it is correct? I’m not. Besides, Webster has been doing the dictionary thing for a few years. I think they’ve got it covered.
Unless you are absolutely certain of a word’s meaning, don’t use it. This is where the dictionary comes into play. The dictionary is on the book shelf by the desk–within reach.
Something that I don’t reach for as much as I used to is a style guide. If you’re just starting out, this is a very, very important tool. Why? Because if you want to write in Chicago, you need to know how to do so. I have a couple manuals of style. I keep one in my desk because I use it more, and the others on the book shelf (with the dictionary).
Are there more tools that I utilize? Sure there are. But I don’t use them nearly as much as I do the others. I have other reference and writing books that I refer to from time to time. But, I picked the three that are the most helpful. The thesaurus, the dictionary, and the style guide (go with AP unless otherwise directed).
And, if I had to choose just one? It would hands down be the thesaurus. It helps the most.
What tools do you find the most useful when writing?