We copy editors at The N&O turn to the dictionary quite often, probably several times every day. We use them, as students and others do, to check spelling or definitions. We want to be sure that we have chosen the right word and have spelled it correctly. Whenever school groups come through our office and stop at my desk, I hold up my dictionary and point out to the students that, even though I have been a journalist for almost 30 years and have been writing English since about 1959, I still need a dictionary.
So which dictionary? We at The N&O use Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition. That happens to be the dictionary referred to in the Associated Press Stylebook, our primary reference for style and usage. I like the New World. It’s an all-purpose, solid, fairly comprehensive book, and it’s not all loosey-goosey on usage. I do refer to others, such as a rather old unabridged dictionary or the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, which has the dates that words came into English. But for words that are going to appear in print, we stick to the New World.
How do you choose a dictionary for your home? I recommend that folks have a hardcover dictionary for their home office or student desk. Students can find a paperback for carrying in their bookbags, but when they are working at their desks at home, they need to have a bigger, more complete edition. I found a Web site recently that gives good advice on finding a dictionary. Go to Choose a Dictionary for some tips.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.