If you find yourself using the same words repeatedly in your writing, or struggling to find the right words to explain contrasting ideas, you may need to use more synonyms and antonyms. But what are these exactly? And how can you use them effectively? Check out our guide below to learn more.
What are Synonyms?
Synonyms are words or phrases with the exact same or similar meaning to one another. For example, ‘fun’, ‘entertaining’ and ‘enjoyable’ are all words we can use to describe a thing or activity that brings light-hearted pleasure. This means they are synonyms and we can use them interchangeably in certain situations:
The party last night was really fun!
The party last night was really entertaining!
The party last night was really enjoyable!
Using synonyms is a great way to avoid repeating words too often in your writing (although it’s fine to repeat common terms like ‘is’, ‘I’, ‘it’ and similar). If you need a synonym for a word, you can usually find one by checking a thesaurus.
What are Antonyms?
Antonyms are words or phrases that are opposite in meaning. For example:
She drives a really slow car.
She drives a really fast car.
In most cases, like with the words ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ above, switching a word for an antonym can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
Most thesauruses include antonyms for words as well as synonyms. This can be useful if you can’t think of a word to express the opposite of something. For example, if you want to say you are ‘not tired’ without using ‘not’, you could look up ‘tired’ in a thesaurus and find a list of words listed like ‘energised’ and ‘lively’.
Sometimes, you can also form an antonym by adding a negative prefix to a root word (e.g. happy and unhappy, like and dislike, or polite and impolite).
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Common Synonym Errors
Be careful when using synonyms! Some have subtle differences that can change the meaning of a sentence. Take ‘quietly’ and ‘inaudibly’, for example:
She played her music quietly so that it wouldn’t upset her neighbours.
She played her music inaudibly so that it wouldn’t upset her neighbours.
Although ‘quietly’ and ‘inaudibly’ can both imply a low volume, ‘inaudibly’ suggests that the volume was so low, it was impossible to hear the music. Thus, while these words are synonyms, they aren’t interchangeable in every situation.
Similarly, some words have more than one meaning. ‘Save’, for example, can mean ‘rescue’ (e.g. ‘She saved the dog from the river’) or ‘store’ (e.g. ‘I am saving my money’). And if you use the wrong synonym, your sentence won’t make sense:
She saved the dog from the river.✔
She rescued the dog from the river.✔
She stored the dog from the river.✘
When looking up synonyms, then, you should always check the meaning of unfamiliar words or phrases before using them in your writing.
Summary: Synonyms and Antonyms
Synonyms and antonyms are both useful when writing. Remember:
A synonym is a word that has the same or a similar meaning to another word (e.g. synonyms for ‘hot’ include ‘scorching’, ‘boiling’, ‘warm’ and ‘sultry’).
An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning to another word (e.g. antonyms for ‘hot’ include ‘cold’, ‘freezing’, ‘cool’ and ‘frigid’).
Using synonyms and antonyms can thus help you write more expressively. But, as you can see, it is important to use the right words so that your writing remains easy to understand. Luckily, our team of expert editors can help! Give our proofreading service a try by uploading a trial document for free today.