Inside the Word 2003 Thesaurus


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Microsoft Office has some features that can help when stuck for a word. The Thesaurus; lexicon, vocabulary, glossary, phrase book or word list.

INSIDE WORD’S THESAURUS

Microsoft Office has some features that can help when stuck for a word. The Thesaurus; lexicon, vocabulary, glossary, phrase book or word list.

The simplest way to use the thesaurus is to highlight a word (or just put the insertion point inside it) and press Shift + F7. Assuming that the word is spelled correct and is in the thesaurus you will see a list of similar or opposite words synonyms and antonyms).

In Word 2003 it will appear in the task bar while earlier versions of Word appear as a dialog box. Click on one of the suggested words to see a pull-down set of options (Insert, Copy or Look Up).


OTHER WAYS TO THE THESAURUS

There’s alternative ways to access the thesaurus. You can right-click on a word then Synonyms to see a fly out list of alternative words for the primary definition of that word.

On the menu you can choose Tools | Language | Thesaurus.

Shift + F7 is the fastest and best because it displays the full set of thesaurus options. Many words have alternative meanings or shadings that demand quite different synonyms. For example, the word Office has eight meanings in Word 2003 (in addition to the proper noun that Microsoft has made it) and you need to choose the appropriate one for you.

Occasionally you’ll see the opposite of a word, look for the (antonym) label after the suggested alternative word.


WHICH LANGUAGE?

In the Research task bar (which includes the Thesaurus) or the title bar of the Thesaurus dialog you can see which dictionary is used.

The default language used is selected according to the settings for Word (Tools | Language | Set Language), that document (in the template), Style or even individual formatting. The Language setting tells Word which dictionary/thesaurus to use.

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THESAURUS LIMITATIONS

Microsoft’s supplied dictionary/thesaurus should not be considered the final word (no pun intended) on language. The company has chosen to selectively edit the lists presumably to placate a noisy minority. As a result, you won’t find any alternatives for innocent US English words like ‘idiot’. There’s only one meaning for ‘fool’, the verb, while the noun is ignored. Standard swear words don’t yield any thesaurus results though all but one are accepted by the US English spell-checker.

There’s plenty of stories about strange results from the Thesaurus. If you have an older version of Word, you might want to see if there are any results from a thesaurus search for some of these terms:



  • love her
  • Unable to follow directions
  • Zzzz
  • I’d like to see Bill Gates dead

Microsoft has worked to stop these anomalies and you won’t get any peculiarities from Word 2003 or Word 2002. Word 97 can be a different matter.

Unfortunately Microsoft has chosen to somewhat bowdlerize their thesaurus which means they have accepted the position of an un-appointed arbiter of language. It’s long been the, sadly misunderstood, policy of dictionary makers to reflect the language as it is used – not limit or set vocabulary.

The online tool is a convenience – but don’t throw away your Websters / Oxford / Macquarie dictionary since they have not succumbed to corporate cowardice as Microsoft has.

In our Office Extras Handbook we include the Oxford English Dictionary on CD as one of our recommended utilities.

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