Can you remember when reference materials were heavy books that you found in a special section of the library? I certainly can.
A lot has changed in the reference world. If you are doing reference work today your physical load has certainly been lightened. Many reference tools that were once found mainly in libraries and classrooms can now be found online.
This article begins a series that I’ll finish up next week The series looks at popular online reference materials. (As writers, we all need to use reference materials from time to time, right?)
The first installment of this series gives you my informal and unofficial review for three popular online dictionary sites: yourDictionary.com, Dictionary.com, and Merriam-Webster Online. Future posts in this series will examine how to access an online thesaurus and will compare popular online encyclopedias.
First, let’s look at what these online dictionaries had in common.
All three dictionaries were easy to use and allowed you to look up definitions. Dictionary.com automatically provided synonyms or antonyms. YourDictionary.com and the Merriam-Webster Online Search provided the etymology (word origin) of the word. All three dictionaries identified parts of speech for the words retrieved.
Next, let’s look at each dictionary site individually.
1. yourDictionary.com. If you like words, you can simply browse through this site alphabetically. If you click the audio icon it plays a recording of the word’s correct pronunciation. Never mispronounce a word again! It was not intelligent enough to find the word telescope when I left off the last “e,” even though the Google ads on the search page figured it out. The site has links to a large number of specialty dictionaries ranging from Accounting dictionaries to Wine dictionaries. I didn’t see any premium dictionary services for sale at this site.
2. Dictionary.com. I didn’t see a way to browse alphabetically. You have to be a registered premium content user to use the audio icon on this dictionary (at a cost of $19.95). It was intelligent enough to find the word telescope when I left off the last “e.” There are some nice extra features on the home page such as Word of the Day, a link to thesaurus.com, a translator, and more.
3. Merriam-Webster Online. I did not see a way to browse alphabetically. If you click the audio icon it plays a recording of the word’s correct pronunciation. When I left the final “e” off of the word telescope the search function gave me 20 suggestions for the word that I might be looking for, including the word telecommute. Premium services at this site cost $29.95 per year or $4.95 per month.
So, the next time you need to look up a word, don’t worry about pulling that old dictionary off of the shelf. Your definitions are only a click away.
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.