After going through my latest WIP and checking for my repeated use of the word ‘look’, I made a list of possible alternatives.
Verb: to look
1 Mrs. Wright looked at him | she looked out of the window:
glance, gaze, stare, gape, peer, fix one’s gaze, focus; peep, peek, take a look; watch, examine, study, inspect, scan, scrutinize, survey, check, contemplate, consider; see, observe, view, regard, pay attention to, take note of, mark, check out; glimpse, spot, spy, track, lay one’s eyes on, catch sight of, eye, take in, ogle; informal take a gander, give someone/something a/the once-over, have a squint, get a load of, rubberneck, recce; Brit. informal take a dekko, take a butcher’s, take a shufti, clock, gawp, eyeball, behold, espy, descry
2 a pair of windows looked north over Madison Avenue | the breakfast room looks out on to a small patio:
command a view, face, overlook, front.
3 both visitors looked shocked:
seem, seem to be, appear, appear to be, have the appearance/air of being, give the impression of being, give every appearance/indication of being, look to be, present as being, strike someone as being.
Another alternative to saying someone looked confused, stunned, frightened, happy etc is to show through their physical responses.
So if someone one looked stressed you can use one or more of the following actions:
A clenched jaw
Tendons standing out
A quick, hurried walk
Barking orders at people
Eyes that dart from one thing to another
Using a strong, businesslike handshake
Speaking in a rushed tone
Rolling the neck and shoulders
Shaking out the hands and arms
Rubbing the neck
Running the hands through the hair
Arriving late to meetings and appointments
Leaning forward with a stiff neck
Approaching mundane tasks mechanically and efficiently
Driving offensively or thoughtlessly
Listening to loud, angry music
Grinding the teeth
Gum-chewing, knuckle-popping, and other stress relief gestures
Bursting into tears
If a character looked frightened you could show it through some of these actions:
Face turning ashen, white, pallid
Hair lifting on the nape and arms
Body odor, cold sweats
Trembling lips and chin
Tendons standing out in the neck, a visible pulse
Elbows pressing into the sides, making one’s body as small as possible
Freezing, feeling rooted to the spot
Staring but not seeing, eyes shut or crying
Hands jammed into armpits or self-hugging
Breath bursting in and out
Leg muscles tightening, the body ready to run
Looking all around, especially behind
A shrill voice
Excerpts From: Puglisi, Becca. “The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.
1 have a look at this report:
glance, observation, view, examination, study, inspection, scan, survey, sight, peep, peek, glimpse, gaze, stare, regard, gape, ogle; informal eyeful, gander, look-see, once-over, squint, recce, shufti, dekko, butcher’s
expression, mien, countenance, visage
Related words: frown, grimace, pout, scowl, grin, smile, aspect, bearing, demeanour, manner, presence
3 he had a shifty look about him | the kitchen has that rustic look Mary’s so fond of:
appearance, air, aspect, bearing, cast, manner, mien, demeanour, features, semblance, resemblance, guise, facade, impression, effect; atmosphere, mood, quality, ambience, feeling, flavour.
4 the latest look for this season is lean and elegant:
fashion, style, vogue, mode, trend, fad, craze, rage, mania.
5. the look of business man:
aspect, dress, figure, garb, mien, presence
Related words: air, attitude, bearing, behavior, comportment, demeanour, manner, poise, pose, posture, stance, complexion, features, habit, visage, colouring
look after: I had to look after my brother after his accident:
take care of, care for, attend to, tend, mind, minister to, take charge of, supervise, protect, guard; keep an eye on, keep safe, be responsible for; watch, sit with, nurse, babysit, childmind.
look back on: I look back on my early teenage years with some amazement:
reflect on, think about, remember, recall, bring to mind, muse on, brood on, ponder on, reminisce about, be nostalgic about, hark back to.
look down on: my mother had social pretensions and looked down on most of our neighbours:
disdain, scorn, hold in disdain, regard with contempt, treat with contempt, sneer at, spurn, shun, disparage, pooh-pooh, despise; informal look down one’s nose at, turn up one’s nose at.
look for: 1 she looked for her comb, but couldn’t find it | police are looking for two suspects:
search for, hunt for, seek, look about/around/round for, cast about/around/round for, try to find, try to track down, forage for, scout out, quest for/after.
2 Jeremiah and Ezekiel looked for the day when God would forge a new covenant with men: anticipate, expect, await, count on, reckon on, watch for, hope for, look forward to, contemplate, prepare for, envisage.
look forward to: I was looking forward to seeing Ted:
await with pleasure, anticipate, wait for, be unable to wait for, count the daysuntil, long for, hope for; informal lick one’s lips over.
look into: the authorities promised to look into the complaints:
investigate, explore, research, enquire about, make enquiries about, find out about, ask questions about, ask about; probe, search into, go into, delve into, dig into, examine, study, scrutinize, check, analyse, follow up, check up on, pore over, take stock of; vet, audit, check out.
look like: in his overcoat he looks like an undertaker:
resemble, bear a resemblance to, look similar to, have a look of, have the appearance of, remind one of, put one in mind of, make one think of, be the image of, echo, have (all) the hallmarks of, simulate; take after; informal be the spitting image of, be the spit of, be a dead ringer for, favour.
look on/upon: people he looked on as friends took advantage of him:
regard, consider, think of, deem, judge, count, see, view, take, reckon, believe to be.
look out: you’ll be trampled on if you don’t look out:
beware, watch out, be on (one’s) guard, be alert, be wary, be vigilant, be careful, be cautious, pay attention, take heed, heed, keep one’s eyes open, keep one’s eyes peeled/skinned, keep an eye out, be on the qui vive.
look something over: he looked over the reports from the engineer:
inspect, examine, check, monitor, read through, look through, scan, run through, cast an eye over, leaf through, flick through, flip through, browse, give something/someone a/the once-over, take stock of, view, peruse, take a dekko at, check out, eyeball.
look right through someone: the woman, once so friendly, now looked right through her:
snub, ignore, slight, spurn, shun, disdain, look past, turn one’s back on, give someone the cold shoulder, cold-shoulder, freeze out, steer clear of; Brit. send to Coventry; give someone the brush-off, cut, cut dead, knock back, give someone the go-by; Brit. informal blank.
1 we must look to the future:
consider, give thought to, think about, turn one’s thoughts to, take heed of, pay attention to, attend to, mind, heed.
2 they got themselves into trouble and now look to the government for help:
turn to, resort to, have recourse to, fall back on, avail oneself of, make use of.
look up: things are looking up for opera these days:
improve, show improvement, get better, pick up, advance, develop, come along/on, progress, make progress, make headway, shape up, perk up, rally, take a turn for the better.
look someone up: Moira said you were going up to Leeds to look up some old friends:
visit, pay a visit to, call on, go to see, look in on; N. Amer. visit with, go see; informal drop in on.
look up to: Jerry looked up to me:
admire, have a high opinion of, think highly of, hold in high regard, regard highly, rate highly, respect, hold in esteem, esteem, value; honour, revere, venerate, idolize, worship, hero-worship, adulate, put on a pedestal, lionize.