Re: Grammar Guides, Dictionaries, etc.

Subject: Re: Grammar Guides, Dictionaries, etc.
From: Dick Margulis <ampersandvirgule -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 22:08:44 -0500

Linda K. Sherman wrote:
> Since I use Merriam-Webster (no particular reason--it was on sale when I
> bought it), I'd be interested in a little more detail on why you think
> the AHD is better. Thanks.
> L.
> --


I didn't say it's better; I said I like it better for Tracey's purpose.
Merriam-Webster makes fine dictionaries; and in many situations you
really have no other choice. For example, if you are in any way involved
in legal publishing or if you prepare journal articles for the
University of Chicago Press, the only permissable dictionary is the M-W
Third International.

But for straightforward technical writing, I like AHD for a number of

1. AHD originated the usage panel model and method. M-W, in going from
the prescriptivist Second International to the descriptivist Third
International, threw the baby out with the bathwater. The usage panel
provides the balance between the uninformative description of the way
_most_ people use a word and the judgment of experienced editors and
writers. I frankly don't care that most people have conflated and
confused the meanings of perimeter and parameter when I am engaged in
engineering documentation; I want to be able to make the distinction.

2. AHD has a warmer, brighter, more inviting design (IMHO), making it
more likely to be used (a good thing, I think).

3. AHD tends, I believe, to cycle neologisms into the dictionary more
quickly than M-W (I could be wrong about this), which is probably
helpful in tech writing.

4. While most definitions are largely word-for-word identical, where
there are differences, I think AHD is better written.

Granted that the largest edition of AHD has fewer entries than the
unabridged M-W, but how obscure a vocabulary do you want to use in a
technical document?

Anyway, this is just one person's opinion. YMMV.

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