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A thesaurus isn't really a book of synonym lists, and you treat it as one at your peril.
It lists words that The purplest prose comes from writers who rely on a thesaurus to choose synonyms, without fully understanding nuance and context.
I can see a thesaurus being useful in that context, as long as you restrict yourself to only using words with which you're already familiar.
So, with that understanding - I'd say the best time to use it would be when you're reading over your work, and find a word that doesn't quite work.
For example, he told Writer’s Digest, instead of writing, “Hartnell read the newspaper.
When he was finished with the periodical, he got up and went outside,” you could leave it at, “Hartnell read the newspaper.“Then I’d go back and edit my piece for typos, misspellings, etc. “In Fowler’s view, and mine,” he said, “elegant variation is not a good thing.Once I was finished with all that, I would grab my thesaurus and go through the piece I had just written, changing common words to words I thought were better and made me sound ‘smarter.’ (See everyone! Your efforts to avoid repetition are too clumsy and obvious.” Often, you don’t even need an alternative.It's a bit like equipping your car with every available gadget from the local auto parts store -- the effect is rarely harmonious, and often unintentionally hilarious.Better to read Roget in the bathroom than use it as a reference while you're writing.Writer Jennifer Blanchard admitted to this on the Daily Writing Tips blog.“Typically when I sat down for a writing session, I would write without stopping until I was done,” she said. Fowler and “How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them” author Ben Yagoda called these words “elegant variations”.Surely, such repetition aggravates King as much as adverbs when he shops online for products and services.To prevent content writers from being killed in his next novel, short story, or screenplay, consider buying a writer’s thesaurus. Googling “[word] definition” will help you replace words you’d rather not repeat; however, a lot of content writers and editors choose the first synonym they see – or worse, a word which only sounds intellectual.Really good writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, comes from those who are comfortably intimate with the language.The right word choice depends not only on definitions, but also fluency, emotion, rhythm, harmony, diction, and character.