Do you write in English?  Do you get tired of using the same old phrases and vocabulary?  Are you looking for a way to spice up your writing style?  Do you agonise over choosing the right word or combinations of words?

JustTheWord is just the tool you need.

There is a ton of online dictionaries and thesauruses out there, but sometimes time doesn’t allow an extensive search for the correct word combination.  JustTheWord combines the usefulness of both dictionaries and thesauruses in one place.  Its database is the 80,000,000 words of the British National Corpus, and it has a powerful and simple search function which produces a list of word clusters for you to choose from.

How can JustTheWord improve your writing?

Writing with JustTheWord 1Say you are writing a description of a new product for a catalogue.  You want to say that the product is « very useful », but on the page that combination looks a bit boring.  To find out what other adverbs you can use with « useful », type the word in the search bar and hit combinations.  You will receive a page with a long list of word clusters. To narrow your search, click on « ADV *useful* » at the top right of the screen, which will lead you to a manageable list of about a dozen examples of adverbs that are used to modify the word « useful ».

You like the feel of « extremely useful » and insert it in your writing.  But later as you are rereading your work, you decide that « useful » doesn’t really do the product justice. What alternatives might there be to this word?  Back to JTW for a second look.  Enter your original phrase « very useful » in the search bar, and this time select alternatives.  This will produce two lists: the list of alternatives to « very » that you have already seen, and a list of adjectives with a similar meaning to « useful » that partner with « very ».  The number beside the word combination indicates the number of times it is found in the corpus, which is also represented visually with a green bar.

Writing with JustTheWord 2The blue bar under each alternative indicates the similarity in meaning between your original phrase and the different combinations.

You decide you like the look of « very beneficial » as an alternative, but to make absolutely sure you’d like to check how the expression is used in actual written text.  Simply click on the expression, and you will see a list of excerpts from actual texts in the corpus where « very » is used with « beneficial ».  This also gives you other useful information, such as the fact that « very beneficial » can be followed by FOR or TO.Writing with JustTheWord 4

Writing with JustTheWord 3Another way that JTW helps you is that it indicates word partnerships that are either rare or simply not used in English writing.  For example, keeping with the « useful » example, you may have heard some English speakers talk about something being « real useful ».  Perhaps you are wondering if this is appropriate in written English, so you enter the phrase into the search bar and select « alternatives ».  It will return a short list of word clusters that indicate with a red bar that the combination « real useful » isn’t found anywhere in the corpus, and is therefore a bad word combination in written English (although we know from your list of « useful » combinations that « really useful » is possible).

Other ways that JTW can be used for better writing by both learners and teachers.

As a learner, if you keep a vocabulary notebook (which you should!), rather than just writing lists of words, you will retain new vocabulary better if you also write a definition and an example sentence.  JustTheWord is great for finding authentic example sentences.  Furthermore, we often remember new words better in word partnerships.

An example:

Imagine you have just learnt the word « confidence ».  JTW can show you other nouns that are regularly used in partnership with this word, thanks to the number showing the frequency of use.  If your focus is business English, you can record the following in your vocabulary notebook: « business confidence » and « consumer confidence ». You will see that « no confidence » and « self confidence » are also common.

As a teacher, you may be preparing a lesson on collocations or word partnerships, but don’t have time to dig through a dictionary or thesaurus.  Simply enter your key words into JTW, and you have a ready made list of collocations to choose from.

I’m sure you’ll agree that JTW is a very useful, extremely helpful, really beneficial, particularly valuable and especially practical tool!

Can you think of other ways to use it? Why don’t you share your ideas in the comments?

photo credit: eyesore9 cc

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