Great reference book for writers

From: Sharing with Writers and Readers:

Carolyn Corrals Fave Old Review–Most Helpful Reference for Writers

Indispensible! A Book
That Can’t Be Replaced by Online Searches

Roget’s Thesaurus and I never much got along. When I am sure there is a better word for something than the one in my head, it never agrees. When I can’t think of the word I want or one even close, it isn’t any help at all. So I didn’t hold out much hope for The Describer’s Dictionary by David Grambs when my fellow author, JayCe Crawford recommended it.

I’m glad I didn’t let my former prejudices color my new book-buying decisions. I like this reference so much because if I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for, I may very well find something I like better. Further, this is the kind of reference you can actually read. Open this book to any chapter (segment) on, say, “hair.” You’ll find several quotes about “hair” that are entertaining and may stir your own creative juices before you even get to the part that that lists adjectives for all kinds of—ahem—tresses, locks, strands, shocks, hanks, coils, tendrils, curls, ringlets or swirls.

My favorite quotation was this:

“The skinny girl with fiery, chopped-off red hair swaggered inside, and stopped dead still, her hands cocked on her hips. Her face was flat, and rather impertinent…”

Truman Capote, Other voices, Other Rooms

As you can see, this offering gives an author an idea of how the best might have handled the same problem she faces. Many are mightily amusing.

So, if you don’t just keep reading instead of handling the problem at hand with the first word you fall in love with, you might eventually find adjectives for some ninety-six possible “hair situations” and one of them may be even better.

Grambs also usually divides each segment into several parts so you’ll get substitute nouns but also possible adjectives. So for “oiled hair” you will find, “greased, slicked, slick, pomaded , brilliantined, plastered, pasted.”

Choose one. Or let one speak to you so you can come up with a simile or metaphor.

When I get into a writing snit, it’s often this book to my rescue. And, by the way, I’ve found no free article with an online search—absolutely nothing—that can replace the inspiration and wisdom in this book.


(Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning poet and novelist. She has been a columnist for the Pasadena Star News, Home Décor Buyer , the Glendale News-Press and has also written for Good Housekeeping Magazine. She is also the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including The Frugal Editor (


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