Death of the Dictionary


Are paper-based dictionaries dead? Do you still have one on your shelf or do you hit the online dictionaries instead, with a plethora of offerings in response to your search?

I may be out of step with emerging trends, but I still like to pick up my dictionary and rifle through it. I should say ‘one of my dictionaries’ as I have a choice of three. I often research a word, making sure not just of the correct spelling but the correct context. I will find myself using a not-so-common word in my writing and suddenly pull myself up short thinking ‘Hold on – where did that word come from? Am I using it correctly or do I just think I am?’ These words obviously spring from a subconscious memory based on past reading and tend to surprise me when they surface again.

I do use the online dictionaries as well, but I like exploring the associations and derivations of the word and possible uses, all the while flipping through the pages. I like the immediacy that the book offers (don’t have to be logged on) and like to feel the weight of it in my hands and the sound of the pages turning.

Probably where I use the online facilities the most is when looking for a synonym. It can be so quick to do a right click on the word and pull up a range of options – click on the best alternative and you are on your way, with only a second or so interruption. OK – so I so use online spell-checkers too (so convenient, except for the American spelling) but I’m not ready to put the dictionaries or the thesaurus’ out to pasture yet.

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