I need some feedback on this paragraph; I’m fleshing out characters for a short story.
Fred and Barney were two good-hearted, helpful friends. Fred helped Barney with his homework, and Barney returned the favor by helping Fred clean his house. The two boys didn’t just help each other, they helped elderly neighbors with household chores and provided help to young parents by offering free babysitting.
You've probably noticed that I used the word help way too much. So how do we fix it?
As writers, we fall into repetitive habits, overusing words and making our writing dull. While I may have to reconsider my story of Fred and Barney entirely for reasons beyond the overuse of help, fixing that problem is a start. And thankfully, it’s an easy one to solve.
Help Has a Large Family of Related Words
If you’re part of a family, you automatically have a variety of identities. For example, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, and aunt. I’m just one person, but I function in different ways depending on who I’m with and what my role is in their life. Of course there is an overlap sometimes, but even in a family crowd, I interact with people differently.
Like many other words, help has its share of identities as well: it can be a verb, a noun, or an interjection. And depending on its context, it performs different functions. As a result, it has a lot of synonyms.
Synonyms for the Verb Help
When we think of the verb help, we most likely think of a scenario in which help means providing assistance or support. That's correct, but there are other meanins, too.
There are a variety of definitions for help, even within its identity as a verb. These sentences show several ways help can take on different connotations and nuances even within its verb identity.
Help the verb can mean
- I offered to help her with her move to a new apartment.
To soothe or make less severe or more tolerable
- Take an aspirin to help your muscle aches.
- I don’t think there’s anything to help my heartbreak.
To benefit or be useful to
- She told me earning my degree would help my job prospects.
- Your generous donation will help us find a cure!
To change for the better
- More salt will help the flavor come through.
To keep from happening; to prevent
- Sorry I snore; I just can’t help it.
- They could not help what occurred.
I think you can see why synonyms are... helpful… when it comes to help. With all of those possible uses, it is easy to fall into using the word repetitively. You must still consider your context carefully, but this chart, organized by common denotations of help, gives you plenty of synonym options to work with.
|To assist||To make less severe||To be useful to|
|Back (as in support)||Ease||Foster|
|Lend a hand||Remedy||Avail|
|To change for the better||To keep from happening|
Note: the use represented in the final category is pretty close to being idiomatic. We often say “I just couldn’t help myself” or “Don’t blame him, he couldn’t help it.” Swapping a synonym may be trickier here, so be certain the one you choose fits your tone, context, and purpose.
And speaking of idioms, there are a couple of other ways help is used in figures of speech, which means you probably won’t swap out the help for a synonym in these contexts:
- Help yourself to more food.
- You cannot just help yourself to my money!
Synonyms for the Noun Help
As a noun, help takes on distinct meanings again, but not with as much variety as it does in its verb form.
Help (the noun) can mean:
An act of assistance
- I would love some help with this project.
- If you could lift the other side, that would be a great help.
- If they want to provide help, they can wash the dishes.
A source of aid or guidance
- The assembly instructions provided almost no help.
- The food you sent over was such a help.
- Their involvement isn’t a help; it’s just another problem!
|An Act of Assistance||Source of Aid|
|Hand (a hand)||Boon|
|Lift (a lift)||Kindness|
The noun help has also been used in negative or diminishing ways to describe domestic workers. People who describe others as “the help” or “hired help” are generally putting themselves in a superior position.
As with the verb help, there are also idiomatic uses for the noun help.
- The situation is beyond help → there is no relief or remedy for the situation
- There is no help for him → there really is no hope for the person
- Help wanted → employees or workers are wanted for hire
While you could substitute remedy, rescue, or relief for help in the first example, and hope or chance for the second, using help in those phrases will convey your meaning most clearly—at least among those who share your language and its idioms.
What About “A Helping?”
When you add “ing” to the verb help, you change the verb’s tense, but not the word’s meaning.
However, helping can also be used as a noun, with a meaning other than “an act of assistance” or “a source of aid.”
A helping is a serving of food.
I’d like another helping please.
The kids have already had two helpings of dessert; they don’t need candy!
(A) serving and (a) portion are the most precise synonyms for the noun (a) helping.
Help as an Interjection
Interjection is a part of speech category. Unlike the other seven parts of speech, interjections do not have a grammatical connection to any of their surrounding text.
Interjections are exclamations; abrupt utterances that express an intense, sudden emotion.
When we make exclamations such as these,
Help! Someone just tried to rob me!
Help! I can’t swim!
Help! Help! There’s a child in danger!
we are using help as an interjection.
If you’re in the midst of a situation that requires using help this way, you might not be too worried about synonyms.
But maybe you’re writing a short story and you’ve got time to think about the emergency. Or maybe you’re stranded on a deserted island with nothing much to do but find creative ways to write Help! for when a plane flies overhead. In that case, you can consider these options:
- Red Alert!
Fun Fact: The Beatles’ song “Help!” uses help in all of its respective parts of speech! Synonyms probably wouldn’t have generated such a hit, though.
Compare Synonyms for Help
Whether you need another word for the verb, noun, or exclamation help, be certain to choose your replacement carefully. ProWritingAid's Repeats Check highlights the repeated words in your document and offers contextually relevant synonyms that will best fit your context, tone, and purpose.
I sincerely hope that this post has helped, assisted, and aided you in your quest to find synonyms for help. I only want to be a help, asset, and benefit. If you need any more ideas, send out an S.O.S!