Deciding on a Dictionary of Modern English Usage?

Subject: Deciding on a Dictionary of Modern English Usage?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Craig Cardimon <ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2007 15:14:03 -0400

Craig Cardimon wondered: <<Do you know there are enough Dictionaries
of Modern English Usage out there to choke a camel?>>

There's a reason for that: word geeks agree about as often as
economists, politicians, and... um... technical writers /
communicators / whatever we're disagreeing to call ourselves today.

The problem with usage is that it varies widely, both among cultures
and among subcultures. The advice you'll get depends on the
particular subculture the volume editors chose as their standard. An
ideal reference would break down usage among the main subcultures,
and provide details on the really obscure usage too, just to feed our
curiosity. I don't think any such reference exists that is reasonably
up to date: the language changes faster than dictionaries et alia can
be updated.

<<Which edition by which author is THE edition most recommended or
suggested by list members?>>

For U.S. English, I like the current version of the American Heritage
dictionary; it describes word usage rather than just prescribing from
upon high. (It does prescribe too, but where the usage is in
question, it usually at least admits to what it's doing.) For
American usage, I like Garner's book.

Oddly enough, I don't do enough Canadian editing anymore to know the
state of the art in usage guides for Canadian English (yet another
victim of cocacolonization, I suppose). Ditto for British,
Australian, and other flavors of English, so you'll have to ask for
separate recommendations for those languages.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Deciding on a Dictionary of Modern English Usage: From: Cardimon, Craig

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