Use synonyms to make your writing vivid

Use synonyms to make your writing vivid

In this lesson, students learn how to identify a synonym, find synonyms in a thesaurus, choose appropriate synonyms to make their writing more vivid, and avoid selecting a synonym that is incorrect.


Students will identify and use correct and incorrect synonyms.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will use a digital thesaurus to find synonyms.
  • Students will find multiple synonyms for words.
  • Students will replace specific words in sentences with correct synonyms.
  • Students will identify incorrect synonyms for words in sentences they compose.

Lesson procedure


A synonym is a word that has the same, or nearly the same, meaning as another word in the same language. For example, a synonym for "dark" is "dim." Words often have many synonyms. For example, "drab," "ebony," and "murky" are all synonyms for "dark." You can make your writing a lot more vivid by finding lively synonyms for the words in your sentences. For example, instead of saying, "His hair was dark," you can say "His hair was inky." Which sentence sounds more interesting and is more descriptive?

A thesaurus is a book that lists synonyms for words. You can use these lists to find appropriate synonyms for your writing. One thing to remember when you use a thesaurus is that some words have different meanings or usages, so not all synonyms listed for a word have the same meaning. For example, one of the synonyms for "dark" is "gloomy." If you substitute "gloomy" for "dark" in the sentence "Her book bag was gloomy," you will make everyone laugh. Another synonym for "dark" is "hidden," as in "That is a dark secret." If you try to substitute "hidden" for "dark" in the following sentence, however, you end up making a mistake: "The afternoon was very hidden."

So when you use a thesaurus, don't just grab any word from the list of synonyms. Make sure the synonym you choose matches your intended meaning.

In this activity we are going to practice finding synonyms in a digital thesaurus, identify correct synonyms that will make our writing more vivid, and compose sentences that use incorrect synonyms.

Teacher Tips

  • Flattery will get you everywhere

    Take a class survey: Would you rather have someone say that a girl’s dress is beautiful, gorgeous, dazzling, stunning, or spectacular? Tally the votes for each option and ask students to explain their choice.

  • Testing the limits

    Challenge students to come up with the wackiest possible version of a simple sentence without losing the basic meaning of the original. Example: The short man hugged his tall wife near the door of their old house.

Student activity

Follow the steps below to guide your students through this lesson plan.

Note teachers: Please download the student activity handouts located in the sidebar under Software and Materials Needed, for additional details about the main activities for this lesson plan.
  • Step 1: "Find multiple synonyms"
  • Step 2: "Find a good synonym."
  • Step 3: "Find the right synonym" 
  • Step 4: "Use an incorrect synonym"  


Evaluate the students' work in the student handouts.