Monday, October 15, 2018

How to Use a Dictionary and Thesaurus When You Write

If you're looking for simple tools to help with your writing, look no further than a dictionary and thesaurus.  The most basic and cheapest of tools, each of these books will help improve your grammar and punctuation in no time!

What is a Dictionary

An assembly of words in one or more particular languages.  Listed alphabetically, providing the meanings, definitions, etymologies, and pronunciations of words.

A Brief History of the Dictionary

There is much deliberation as to what forms the basis of the first dictionary.  Archaeologists have found bilingual words lists from the Akkadian Empire, located in Modern Syria of 2300 BCE. 

Arabic and Chinese dictionaries have also been found.  Robert Cawdrey, a school teacher called a table alphabetical in 1604, but that was thought to be not very accurate.  The most trusted modern English language dictionary was Samuel Johnson's, and was around for 150 years up to 1755.  Then came the Oxford English Dictionary.

How to Use a Dictionary

An important resource for anyone learning a new language, or wanting to improve their grammar.  You can use a dictionary to:
  • Find the meaning of an English word you've heard or seen
  • Discover the English translation of the word in your own language
  • Ascertain the correct spelling of a word
  • Review the plural of a noun or past tense of a verb
  • Discover more information about the word
  • Check out the synonym or antonym of a word
  • Find the collocations of a word
  • Analyse the speech of a word
  • Determine how to say a word
  • Uncover examples of the use of a word in natural language
In order to use a dictionary properly, you need to know the kind of dictionary you need to use, and find what you're looking for.

Here are 4 tips to help you get the most out of your dictionary: 

1. Unearthing Words Effectively

A skill that requires a lot of practice.  Ask a friend to give you 5 words, and then see how long it takes you to find them in a dictionary.  At the top of each page in a dictionary are guide words, use those to help you find the word you're looking for.  Keep practising until you find any given word within 10 seconds.

2. Discovering the Correct Meaning of a Word

As you well know the English language is full of words that sound the same but have a different meaning.  If you're unsure what the word means you can, find the word that makes the most sense in the context it's given.

3. Ascertaining the Correct Spelling

If you discover you can't find the right spelling, look up the spelling you think it is, until you find the right one.

4. Learning When to Use a Dictionary

English dictionaries are full of thousands of words with different meanings, you could spend most of  your life reading one.  Knowing when to use one is the real trick.  Always finish the sentence you're reading to get the context of the word you're going to look up. 

What is a Thesaurus

A thesaurus is a group of words put together depending upon their similarity or meaning, sometimes synonyms and antonyms.

History of the Thesaurus

The modern thesaurus was developed by Peter Mark Roget first published in 1852.

How to Use a Thesaurus

If you find yourself using the same words repeatedly, then you need to spice up your language a little, and use a thesaurus.

This is how you can use a thesaurus in your writing:
  • Choose the word you want to put into your sentence
  • Find the word, alphabetically in your thesaurus
  • Check out the words listed alongside your chosen word
  • Replace your chosen word with a word that fits into your sentence 
The Best Dictionary and Thesaurus 
  • Oxford Paperback Dictionary & Thesaurus
  • Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus Set (Collins Dictionaries)
  • Compact Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus
  • Roget's International Thesaurus 
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  1. You can look up the thesaurus to find synonyms of a word. Then check the meaning and use of each synonyms from a standard English dictionary. This way you will not only acquire more vocabulary but also fine tune your use of various words which seem similar in meaning.

    1. Thank you for your comment Maria. I'd be lost without a dictionary and thesaurus.


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