Subject: Dictionaries
From: Emily Skarzenski <eskarzenski -at- DTTUS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 1995 09:54:29 CST

Connie Winch <CEW -at- MACOLA -dot- USA -dot- COM> wrote:

>>>>When I was a Professional Writing student (only a few years ago),
my professor made a point that PREscriptive dictionaries, including
the one my parents had given me as a gift - American Heritage
(2nd College Edition), were better than DEscriptive dictionaries.
Which is really another way of saying that a dictionary
should be a determiner of correct language, not that current
usage should be the determiner of dictionary content.<<<<

Ah, but I believe the American Heritage dictionary is DEscriptive.
From its introduction: "Keeping the needs of the contemporary user in
mind, we have presented the central and often the most frequently
sought meaning of the word first." (Mark Boyer -- any comment?)

That said, I love the American Heritage Dictionary and have both the
full version (3rd ed.) and the online version that comes as part of
the Microsoft Bookshelf. This dictionary is filled with excellent
usage notes (data -- singular or plural?), which help form my
editorial judgement in usage. It also contains other interesting
things for language-lovers, like regional words, word histories,
examples, and pictures. Simply put, this dictionary is much more fun
than any other I've used. I do also refer to Merriam Webster's
Collegiate when I'm struggling with the *correct* usage of a word.

The online version is great too. All the great features of the book,
plus quick access to words via speed search. Plus, it pronounces words
-- which has been quite useful. (Some of the practical jokers in my
office have discovered that it includes pronunciations for lots of
four-letter words and other terms that are uh, not exactly appropriate
for the office. Sometimes they turn up the volume on my computer
speakers and I hear my computer yelling distateful words across the

Emily Skarzenski
ICS Deloitte - Chadds Ford, PA
eskarzenski -at- dttus -dot- com

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