Setting Thesaurus Entry: School Office


chairs, couches, carpeted floor, little end tables, parenting/educational magazines, desks for receptionists with all the secretarial paraphernalia (phone, computer, desk calendar, files, stapler, pens, post-it notes, markers), smudged plate-glass window looking into the…


phones ringing, papers rustling, click of keyboards, door opening and closing, noise of busy hallways outside, kids outside talking/laughing, running feet in the halls, period bells ringing, fire alarm, secretaries talking on phone/chatting/laughing quietly, flip of…


warm smell of new copies, sweaty kids, perfume/cologne, markers, coffee, leftover breakfast/snack/lunch smells (oatmeal, bananas, bacon, pizza, hot dogs, etc), hot printer cartridges, musty carpet


rubbery erasers, wood pencils, bubblegum, hard candy, mints, fingernails, tears, breakfast foods from the community tray (doughnuts, bagels, muffins, pastry), coffee, water, tea


glass window pane, embroidered chair, leather couch, hard folding chair, scuff of carpet beneath the feet, anxious body movements (increased pulse, butterflies in stomach, racing heart, fidgety body parts), cold telephone receiver, metal door knobs…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: I glanced up to check on Billy, who kicked at the leg of his chair as he waited for his turn to see the principal. The ice pack I’d given him for his bruised knee had fallen onto the floor and his glare burned the carpet. The third fight he’d started this week, yet from the way his lip puffed out and his arms squeezed his chest, you’d think he’d been on the victim end of things…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) I squirmed on the bench as the Principal’s door snicked open. His shoes made quick scuffs against the thin carpet and then suddenly he was there, looming over me like an angry wave about to swallow me whole…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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4 Responses to Setting Thesaurus Entry: School Office

  1. Hazardgal says:

    A scene I know well is the hive of the office. It was always as crowded as an elevator at closing time. Lights that hum and blink. Bathrooms as nasty as dirty diapers.

  2. Becca says:

    That’s true, Nora. Thanks for the reminder!

    Sorry about that, Suzanne ;).

  3. Secretaries often double as nurses (nurses travel in our district). Since the clinic is also part of our elementary school office, it’s not unusual to walk in to the smell of puke and/or bleach.

    Love your blog!

  4. This is great! Just reading this made me feel like I was in the principal’s office. : )

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