Friday, September 17, 2010

A dictionary for writers

I'm heading off for a night of tent camping with my kids this afternoon, and I have a lot of packing to do. Rounding up, actually. We're more 'rent a cabin' kinda people than 'campers' so what equipment I do have is scattered between the attic, garage and whatever nook it got crammed into. It's also my daughter's first time spending the night in a tent. Wish me luck.

Why didn't I work on that packing thing yesterday?

I spent the day composing and sending emails introducing the Young Writers Program to local schools. An email pitching NaNo's used book drive fundraiser was composed and sent to the middle school where I do the YWP. I met with the principal at the elementary school were I do the YWP and got her on board with the book drive. Writers Die kits were created and assembled. The last ten of the twenty plot bunnies was finished. Oh, and I worked.

Why the picture of the book if all I'm going to do is ramble about what I did yesterday? That's because, in light of yesterday's mental events, I didn't have a chance to dwell on a blog post. So today I will feature another selection from the NaNoWriMo raffle item stack.

Bryon's Dictionary for Writers and Editors sounded interesting so I picked it up to see what on earth set it apart from any other dictionary out there. Well, it holds the magical answers to all (or at least, many) of those things we overthink, misuse or wonder about.

Not your typical dictionary with dry explaination, this book lists people, places, and terms with explainations with clear examples. Commonly swapped words are listed together such as altar and alter, with their differences pointed out right there so it might actually stick with some of us. Poets, authors, plays, trademarked words. A smattering of French, German and Italian words. It's not all in here, but there's a good cross section to work with.

There's even a hint of humor. Such as this entry:
alright is never correct; make it all right.

The appendix includes:
-The proper usages of punctuation - with three pages devoted to the pesky comma.
-Abbreviations for major worldwide airports
-Conversions for distance and tempertature
-List of main units of currency

There is also a short glossary that covers grammatical terms such as verbs, predicates, participals, etc. It's the perfect, quick refresher for those of us who have been out of english class for more years that we'd like to admit.

On one hand, all of this information is available online thanks to the almighty power of google. On the other, I felt like I was actually learning something in reading through the dictionary, expanding my vocabulary, rather than doing a quick internet search for the proper spelling of a word I already knew. The dictionary section is only 370 pages, certainly no replacement Webster, but of a length I could sit down with and not feel overwhelmed reading through.

Along with the appendix and glossary, I'd say this makes a useful reference book for any writer.
Now I'm reconsidering its placement in the raffle stack. I just might keep this one.


  1. Good luck with the camping, Jean. Hope the weather is kind to you at this time of year.

    That sounds like a useful kind of dictionary! One of my pet peeves is misuse of similar-sounding or commonly-swapped words. I do enjoy the occasional use of misuse to comic effect though, as in the scene in the film of Tom Sharpe's novel Wilt, where Wilt is suspected of murder and is running rings around his interviewer...

    Rather thick policeman: Are you inferring I'm an idiot?

    Wilt (wearily): No. I'm implying you're an idiot. You are inferring it.

  2. The camping trip went well, despite a torrential rainstorm complete with ground shaking thunder and lightning which exposed some leaks in our tent.

    Have you been reading my email? I am totally guilty of misusing infer and imply and only after sending the email, realizing that I used the wrong word. *head desk*

  3. Ooh...tents + rain + leaks = bad news. Been there, done that. That is why we now have a trailer. Glad to hear things went well despite that.

    And as for reading your email, Jean, in the best traditions of people in public office faced with suggestions like that, I will utterly refute that allegation, despite offering no proof whatsoever, because it sounds less guilty than denying it.


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