I am one of those people who don’t throw much away, so it’s been hard for me to part with my dictionary. It’s a jacketless Merriam Webster that’s decades old and worn. Any other writer would have replaced it long ago.
But now that Christmas is around the corner, I’ve got a new dictionary on my list. Choosing a specific dictionary was a big decision for me, especially given the number of dictionaries out there to consider. I wanted to make sure that the one I settled on would serve me well as a writer.
So how did I narrow down my choice? I began by asking myself three important questions:
- What don’t I like about my current dictionary? Age isn’t the only problem with my current dictionary. Other things about it bother me, like the way it’s organized, the fact that I can’t always find a word I’m looking for, and the lack of useful front and back matter. By reflecting on what I don’t like about my dictionary, I came up with criteria that I wanted for my new one.
- Does size matter? For me, the answer was no. I have space to use and store any size dictionary. The advantage of big dictionaries is that they’re generally more comprehensive. But big dictionaries take up desk space, weigh more, and can be cumbersome for some people. Medium and smaller dictionaries are more compact and convenient but may not contain many extras.
- How much am I willing to spend? Or, in my case, how much is my husband willing to spend on a dictionary? It’s a valid question because, as I quickly discovered, dictionaries can be costly. The one I chose isn’t cheap, but I felt it was worth the money. Since my current dictionary has lasted me nearly twenty years, I expect I won’t be replacing my new one for quite some time.
With those three questions answered, I decided on The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th Ed.). Of course, I won’t know if my choice was right until I actually start using it. But for now, I eagerly await Christmas morning and my new writing resource—not to mention the look on my kids’ faces when they see how excited I’ll be over a dictionary!