Many people use anxious and eager interchangeably, but they really are not the same. Anxious comes from “anxiety” – an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. Anxious is not a happy feeling! When we are anxious about something, we are definitely worried. Kids are eager for Christmas, but anxious about a new school year. We are eager for vacation, but anxious about getting the bill afterward.
Using the Thesaurus
When we write, we want to come up with just the perfect word. It doesn’t have to be a big word! We don’t have to dazzle our readers with the size of our vocabularies. While it might be nice if they had to look up a couple of words before they finish the book, you may just lose your readers if you use too many unfamiliar words. The thesaurus is a very useful tool that we should all be familiar with. However, the words listed as synonyms are not identical twins! They are siblings at best. They have similar meanings, but each with a slightly different flavor, and that is where the thesaurus is really useful! Suppose you have a hero who has to walk across the street. You can use endless adverbs to tell us how he walked. He could walk quickly and quietly. He could walk slowly, cautiously, aimlessly, hurriedly, haltingly, sluggishly, or purposefully. Adverbs are a great tool – when used SPARINGLY – to tell us “how” the character did something. But using a thesaurus, or possessing a good vocabulary, can help us use a better word than “walk” to tell us how he moved, without needing an adverb.
Synonyms are Similar, Not Identical
Checking the thesaurus for words synonymous with “walk” we find: stroll, hike, jaunt, parade, tour, march, pace, ramble, saunter, stride, traipse, tramp, tread, and schlepp. I’m not sure how schlepp got in there, but it’s there! All of these words are synonyms for “walk” but they do not mean exactly the same thing. If the hero marched across the street, we have a very different image than if the author were to write he sauntered across the street. Both are methods of moving one’s legs and transporting oneself to another location. But they do not mean the exact same thing! So it is with “anxious” and “eager.” They have similar meanings, but the next time you write “anxious”, ask yourself, “Is this character really worried?” Maybe you’ll find a better word to use instead.