Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Roget's Descriptive Wordfinder
A Dictionary/Thesaurus of Adjectives

by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.

      Don't Let the Word Thesaurus Discourage You

Writer's Aid that Works When
Word's Thesaurus Doesn't Cut It

I have heard fellow writers say, "I never use a thesaurus" so often that I began to wonder if some of them might not want to admit that they get help with their writing from a musty old book. That prompted me to ask for more information.

What I heard most was that they simply never found a word they liked better than the one that originally came to them, or that the list of words in their thesaurus did not inspire new patterns of thought.

Barbara Ann Kipfer's book functions better than a thesaurus on both counts. It works to an author's advantage often enough to encourage her to keep picking up her Roget's Descriptive Wordfinder: A Dictionary/Thesaurus of Adjectives. But then, that might be because this is a different kind of thesaurus.

Kipfer reminds us that her book works much like the human brain, by categorizing. She's right, of course. Because we memorize the alphabet when we are young, we think we are naturally alphabetical animals. We are wrong. We had to learn specific skills for using a dictionary or putting a Rolodex into order, but we group and classify the entire world rather naturally.

I found that one of the most useful ways to use Kipfer's combination dictionary and thesaurus is to look up a word in my old thesaurus and then cross-reference what I found there to this one . If you look up receding in a thesaurus and find "retrogression," you could go to Kipfer's book and find other entries that were, indeed, in your thesaurus, but you'll also find crablike. That certainly suggests a simile better than another Latinate word like reflex or retrograde.

I also was in awe of Kipfer's approach to categorizing in her addendum. She calls it a "Quick Word Finder". It uses very broad categories like Appealing-Unappealing. There one finds everything from the mundane (affluent, alluring, yummy) to the really off-beat (fiddle-footed and Circean).

This is a book that should be on every writer's reference shelf -- even those who never use their other Thesaurus.

The Book

Writer's Digest Books
More at
NOTE: Four Stars Out of Five

The Reviewer

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Reviewed 2006
NOTE: Reviewer Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the award-winning author of This is the Place, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't -the 2004 winner of USA Book News' Best Professional Book of the Year- and a recently published chapbook of poetry titled Tracings.
© 2006