The Penultimate Word

5 Reference Books You Should Have If You Write ANYTHING

#1 – Dictionary

Without a doubt, the dictionary is the most popular reference book of all time. OK, that’s just conjecture on my part, but it’s only logical. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t own a dictionary. They’re everywhere! … and for good reason … they make great doorstops.

To ensure accuracy, check more than one dictionary.As you may recall from another of my articles (“The Truth About Dictionaries”), I have a love-hate relationship with the dictionary. I turn to it frequently for guidance on word meanings and spellings; but, at the same time, I don’t trust it. (I’m sorry Mr. Merriam-Webster Man, but “peruse” does not mean “to look over casually.”) The trick to getting accurate information from a dictionary is to use more than one at a time. Try three or four.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have three or four dictionaries lying around the office—no, wait—yes, I do. But get this … they’re all over 30 years old! Not one of them has an entry for “cell phone,” “Internet,” or “website.” So what good are they? (I mean, other than as doorstops.) No, I’m talking about using multiple electronic dictionaries.

Thanks to the World Wide Web, we have access to numerous online dictionaries, including current editions by:

And, for the most part, they’re free. If they’re not free—as is the case with the highly regarded Oxford American Dictionary—there’s a good chance you can gain access through your public library.

So, despite my wariness about their accuracy, dictionaries are still a valuable source of information.


5 Reference Books You Should Have If You Write ANYTHING

#2 Thesaurus
#3 Style Guide
#4 Dictionary of Synonyms
#5 Grammar Book


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