Lost for words? 11 ways to help you find just the right words for your marketing documents

eleven tips

One of the dubious joys of being a traditional copywriter (as opposed to the content creation type) is choosing which word to write where. Whilst not the most difficult part of developing marketing material it can be hard to find the word to express elegance in a press release or tempt the reader in a print advertisement. In this article I highlight some of the specialized thesauruses and other language tools available to help you find suitable words for use in your English language marketing documents. Hopefully these tools will make your copy a little smoother and your life a little easier.

The 11 tools and sources of marketing words

The 11 tools and sources of marketing words

  1. Looking for a detailed list of alternative words? thesaurus.com and Babylon has every synonym
  2. Need to find a shorter word to fit in a space?  Try Thsrs
  3. Looking for alternative words in a hurry? Go visual with Visual Thesaurus & Lexipedia
  4. Trying to rhyme a specific word? Then look at Rhymes to get your message heard
  5. Need to use a simpler word? Let the Plain English campaign help
  6. Do you have a meaning but don’t know the correct word? Put a reverse dictionary to the test
  7. Need access to a thesaurus offline? Download Wordweb
  8. Searching for some slang? Visit Urban Dictionary to make your text talk street
  9. Looking for a word with the opposite meaning? Drive home the point with Antonym Finder
  10. Need to find a classy alternative? Add a little je ne sais quoi with a foreign phrase.
  11. Trying to find the right words for a theme or style? Get inspired with Vocabgrabber

1. Looking for a detailed list of alternative words? thesaurus.com and Babylon has every synonym
For a language with only 26 letters English contains a remarkable numbers of words, for a truly comprehensive view of which of these have related meanings try thesaurus.com. Less organized, but almost as comprehensive is the Babylon Thesaurus which uses the large Moby and Wordnet databases. However do beware that with such a long list of synonyms some of the words will have very specific uses and some will be quite obscure.
http://thesaurus.com http://thesaurus.babylon.com/

2. Need to find a shorter word to fit in a space? Try Thsrs
Thsrs is a shorter thesaurus, you type in a long word and it gives shorter words with approximately the same meaning. Some of the synonyms were a bit of a stretch and it didn’t know all the words that we tested it with. Even with those faults it’s a useful tool for taglines and coping with the restricted space of websites.
http://www.ironicsans.com/thsrs/

3. Looking for alternative words in a hurry? Go visual with Visual Thesaurus & Lexipedia
If you’re more of a visual person and need a thesaurus to quickly find good alternative words you can checkout one of the visual thesauruses. Type in a word and you’ll see it displayed at the center of a web of alternatives. Arguably best visual thesaurus is the one called Visual Thesaurus but you have to pay if you want to use it for more than a limited number of words at a time. A good free alternative is Lexipedia
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/ http://www.lexipedia.com/

4. Trying to rhyme a specific word? Then look at Rhymes to get your message heard
Not used that commonly but there may be times when you want to find a word that rhymes with another word in your marketing copy. The two choices is recommend for this are Rhymes which is a good rhyming dictionary and Write Rhymes which gives you a workspace for text with an inbuilt rhyming tool
http://www.writerhymes.com/ http://www.rhymes.net/

5. Need to use a simpler word? Let the Plain English campaign help
There are (occasional) times when you want to elucidate and others when you want to make it clear, the list of alternative words from the Plain English Campaign is a good start if you need a simpler word with the same meaning (Note that it’s a Pdf)
http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/files/alternative.pdf

6. Do you have a meaning but don’t know the correct word? Put a reverse dictionary to the test
Reverse dictionary lets you type what a word means and then searches for a word with a similar definition.  It uses multiple dictionaries so as long as you type the meaning like a dictionary definition you’re likely to find a suitable word. The downside is that only the first few results are likely to be relevant and even then you’re going to have to double check that they’re really the words you want.
http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml

7. Need access to a thesaurus offline? Download Wordweb
There are many fine examples of thesauruses that you can download and use offline, but the one I personally find most useful is Wordweb.  Why? It’s the combination of a simple layout, a comprehensive dictionary and its wide range of linked words: “synonyms”,” antonyms’, “type of”, and “see also”.
http://wordweb.info/ (free, but paid pro version available)

8. Searching for some slang? Visit Urban Dictionary to make your copy talk street
Urban Dictionary is a publically edited slang dictionary which also provides synonyms (slangonyms?) for many of the slang.  There will of course be plenty of offensive, swear, racist, sexual words, and slang is always hard to use correctly unless you really know the word.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/

9. Looking for a word with the opposite meaning? Drive home the point with Antonym Finder
Many thesauruses offer antonyms (words with opposite meanings), but if want an uncluttered page just with antonyms the choice is far more limited.  Antonym Finder provides just this kind of site, giving you the chance to use contrasting words for effect.
http://www.synonym.com/antonym/

10. Need to find a classy expression? Add a little je ne sais quoi with a foreign phrase.
English itself is of course a mix of words from many languages and most the time we pay no attention to the origins of words. But there are still words and phrases that add colour because they are still distinctly foreign. If you’re very careful with just the right target audience you might even use some of these in your marketing material. Infoplease provides a list of the more common ones
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001619.html

11. Trying to find the right words for a theme or style? Get inspired with Vocabgrabber

We’ve all needed to write marketing copy that matches existing material, or is in a certain literary style, or feels like it comes from a certain period of time; writing as someone else is one of the hardest things to do. But a good start is to get the range and style of words right. Paste existing material or matching source text into Vocabgrabber to get analysis of the vocabulary used.  The nicely presented results will give you an inspiring list of words to base your copy on. 
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/

Conclusion

That’s it folks! As ever I’ve tried to stick to free tools and resources, with all these tools please do use your savvy choosing which word to use. You will of course select different words for the high-technology industries, the retail sector, different national markets, or for global marketing material, and please do make sure you understand the proper usage of an unfamiliar word before it goes in your copy (particularly if English is your second language). If you have any suggestions for further additions to this article let me know by email bob.c at we – convince dot com . Thank you for reading and good luck with your marketing.