August 24th, 2017 in Tools by April Michelle Davis 0

All dictionaries are not created equal. Do you know what your dictionary is doing for you?

Most dictionaries are now descriptive. They list the most frequent pronunciations and spellings first, even if they are not the best usages. Many dictionaries even include words that are considered nonstandard, such as “can’t,” “alright,” and “ya’ll.” Very few dictionaries are prescriptive, giving advice on the best ways to use words.

In selecting a dictionary for your reference desk, keep in mind the different philosophies.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary includes definitions that are less clear and includes more entries. New words are added less frequently. It is useful for finding obscure terms and meanings.

American Heritage College Dictionary has good usage information and clear definitions, and it is good at covering the way language behaves and proper word usage.

New Oxford American Dictionary is excellent at analyzing language chunks, but sacrifices some coverage to achieve depth. Because this dictionary does go into more depth on words, fewer words are included.

Webster’s New World Dictionary has accurate, simple definitions.