Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

This seems to be my day for lame analogies — in this case, think about dictionaries

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Maybe the weather this beautiful autumn day is prompting me to make lame analogies (see the last post regarding copy editors), or maybe not. But this seems to be the day for such efforts, so bear with me.

Just as writers need good editors and copy editors to help them into print, so too they need good reference tools for their work. With that in mind, here’s my latest lame analogy for today: A good dictionary is the term life insurance policy every writer must own. Do you have one — a dictionary, that is?

I confess I’ve gotten lazy and rely on the Merriam-Webster online tools, but really they are just an Internet extension of the company’s faithful printed dictionaries. So let’s talk about a good PRINTED dictionary a moment.

A good dictionary is like “term” life insurance because it is great when you need it, but it does expire or become outdated eventually. I used to try to buy each new edition of the “Collegiate Dictionary” that M-W publishes periodically. Then I found myself simply keeping the 9th edition a few years. More of an oversight than anything else. My wife the proofreader then got an ongoing freelance gig that required her to have the 10th edition, so we have one of those around the house.

If you lack a good dictionary, you need to get one as soon as you can. If you see no need for a good printed dictionary, you at least ought to find a good online dictionary site, bookmark it, and visit each time you write something.

How about you? Do you have a dictionary you prefer? Why? Which one is it? Online or printed copy? Leave a comment and let us know.

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