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Beginner Geek: Use the Thesaurus and Dictionary in Word for More Accurate Writing

Spell check in Word is a savior for a lot of people, but what if you’re having trouble finding the perfect Word or Phrase. We’ll take a look at using the Thesaurus and Dictionary in Word 2007 & 2010.

Sometimes while writing a document you run into writer’s block and can’t find the word or phrase you’re looking for. Using the Thesaurus to find a synonym and the Dictionary to make sure the words you’re using have the correct meaning can be valuable tools in the writing process.

Thesaurus in Word 2010

To access the Thesaurus in Word 2010 click on the Review tab on the Ribbon. Highlight the word you want to find synonym for then access the Thesaurus.

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This opens the Research pane where you can search the Thesaurus for a better synonym for what you currently have in the document. Choose the word you want then select to insert it into the document, copy it, or look it up.

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Another easy way to get a synonym for a word is to highlight it, right-click, scroll down to Synonyms and select one from the list.

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Dictionary in Word 2010

To use the Dictionary in Word, right-click on a word you want to look up. Then scroll down to Look Up and you will get a list of various resources for finding its definition.

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Here we used the Encarta Dictionary and the Research Pane opens up so you can view definitions.

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In this example we highlighted “Quick Style gallery” in the document and looked it up with Bing. Again the Research Pane opens up and you can look through the results. If you click one of the links, a separate browser session will open up to the page. This comes in handy if you need to do a quick web search on the topic your writing about.

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Check Spelling and Grammar

Word will usually let you know if something is misspelled or if grammar is incorrect while you’re typing. A final step before sending out a document is to click the Review tab then Spelling & Grammar.

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If you’re writing a long document you may have missed certain grammar and spelling errors. This will scan your document and show you what might be wrong and offers suggestions to change it. sshot-2010-07-22-[19-30-50]

Thesaurus in Word 2007

Accessing the Thesaurus in Word 2007 is essentially the same in 2007. Right-click a word you want to research and go to Synonyms then Thesaurus.

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Alternately you can click the Review tab on the Ribbon and in the Proofing section click on Thesaurus. Here you can ado a Spelling & Grammar check as well when doing a final proof of your document.

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The Research Pane opens and you can look for synonyms for the word you want.

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Just like in 2010 you can type different terms into the search box and select different reference sources such as the Encarta Dictionary or Bing.

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Bonus Tip: If you don’t want to use the mouse to navigate around Word to access the Research Pane, hold down the Alt key while clicking on the word or phrase in the document, and the Research Pane will open up.

Conclusion

Even with Word 2010 it’s still not a perfect tool. There will be many times where you’re using tech lingo or need to explain something in a certain way and Word thinks it’s wrong. You can easily right-click on what it thinks is an error and add it to the dictionary or select to ignore all instances of it in the document. These are some basic tips that will help you make professional, accurate, and creative documents in Microsoft Word.

If you have added a lot to customize the dictionary, take a look at this cool tip that shows how to transfer your Microsoft Office Custom Dictionary to other computers.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/29/10

Comments (3)

  1. Trinae

    While, I like the research tools in MS Word, though I don’t like having to be connected to the internet to use some of the tools. For a good offline dictionary/thesaurus, I stick with Word Web.

  2. Ed

    I didn’t know the ease of access thru the right-click. Thanks for the tip, for all those other tips and the continuing flow of FREE and helpful information.

  3. Katie

    Interesting post. I think that the only flaw is it relies on a regular Thesaurus. There are a lot of great ones out there, like The Thinker’s Thesaurus by Peter Meltzer, which is, I will admit, not in Word, but a lot more fun.

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