The Value of a Dictionary — Carolyn Wilker

graphic for dictionary post-resized-600.jpgWhen did you last open a dictionary? Was it to make sure you`ve spelled a word correctly? To check the meaning of a word you didn’t know? Or to make sure it was the right word for the context. If you didn’t have a dictionary on your desk, did you search an online dictionary, like

In my home, we had a large fat red book with thousands of words in it. Looking through that book could either be daunting or an adventure. I chose adventure.

New words are being added to our English language every year—words such as website, blog and twitter that would not have been in use when I was growing up.

Why buy a dictionary or use one?  The following points will help you decide.

To increase vocabulary

Understanding increases each time you search for a word, because you learn the meaning,
likewise if there’s more than one One such example would be crew, a collective noun, which can mean a group of people who operate a ship, aircraft or train, or its less formal use as a company of people or a gang. Plus if you were to use a new word in conversation a few times, you soon add it to your vocabulary.

Spelling is important to professional communication. Would you take a message more seriously when the spelling and grammar are correct than if there are a lot of errors?

To know which word to use

There’s weather or whether, perspective and prospective and many more words that are easily confused. A quick check of a dictionary can help sort out those quandaries. Keep a list of the ones that trip you up so you can refer to it as needed.

A thesaurus can also help you find the right meaning, with synonyms and opposites listed. There are some good dictionary thesaurus combinations in bookstores. The Canadian Thesaurus is also available in paperback. It’s a useful tool alongside the dictionary of choice.

To know the derivation of a word or significance of the entry

In each word entry in a collegiate dictionary, there is the word, pronunciation, notation of the part of speech it represents (whether it’s a noun, verb, adjective or adverb). Diamond, for example, can be a noun or an adjective. Knowing the part of speech can help you to use it properly.

A word that is derived from another language will often give the root word of that language and what that word means. In the case of a famous inventor or leader, there is a synopsis of why that person is important to remember.

In conclusion, a dictionary is more than a heavy book in your bookcase or a stopper for your door. It’s a useful tool that will help you learn language and use it effectively in your writing and personal or business communications. But it will only work if you open the book or online dictionary and search.

carolyn-wilkerCarolyn Wilker, writer, editor, writing instructor from Kitchener, Ontario

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