RIP the paper dictionary

Here at Full Proof, dictionaries and grammar reference books are in constant use by the proofreading team. Whether it’s a subject-specific technical term or just a word that’s not in regular use, our proofreaders are trained to find the correct words and their usage. Our dictionaries and reference books are the tools of our trade; they are the painter’s brushes or the carpenter’s saw.

Not so many years ago every home had a dictionary somewhere, whether it was a great tome you could hardly pick up or a small, battered one that fell apart each time you opened it. But people tend not to buy dictionaries nowadays. And why would they, when they can access a wealth of information on the Internet?

Most of Full Proof’s customers, when writing their essays, dissertations, theses, business documents and CVs, don’t have access to traditional English paper dictionaries – they rely on the Internet for spelling and grammar guidance. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

It seems that most people just insert the word they want to check the spelling of into a search engine search and then scan the first page of results for the most popular spelling. This may, however, reveal several different spellings (particularly in compounds). Which one to choose? We imagine there is a tendency to choose the spelling that the person suspected was the correct spelling before they did the search. But, of course, this may be the wrong spelling!

On the other hand, language is always evolving and paper dictionary entries become out of date. Perhaps a word isn’t commonly hyphenated any more or perhaps there’s a variant spelling that’s more modern. The Internet can be very helpful in revealing modern word usage and spelling.

The proofreading team at Full Proof make sure that the right sources are being used to proofread your work. Our proofreaders have many areas of specialist knowledge and decades of proofreading experience – oh, and very big dictionaries!

To read more original articles about grammar, please click here.