Tag Archives: dictionaries

Review: New Oxford American Dictionary

New Oxford American DictionaryNew Oxford American Dictionary by Angus Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I own a copyediting service that does technical and scholarly editorial consulting for businesses, professional practices, academics, and nonprofits. While online “dictionaries” are OK for checking spellings and trying to figure out if some author really meant what she or he put on the page, the job requires some heavy lifting that only a hard-copy dictionary can provide.

My favorite old hardback plumb wore out (plus it was getting a bit out of date!), and so I was reduced to having to buy a new paper-and-cardboard dictionary.

This task, as it develops, is no longer a straightforward matter. In the dictionary market, as in others, the bad chases out the good. Few decent dictionaries — and by that I mean ones with comprehensive definitions and etymologies (yes, sometimes I DO need to know where a word came from) — are still in print. After much thrashing around and studying reviews, I concluded that Oxford’s is among the best of the survivors.

And content-wise, it is indeed very good. My main cavil is its format: at 8.5 x 11 inches, it’s clumsy and heavy. It needs a deep bookshelf to fit into — can’t put it on just any shelf. And you practically spavin your back hauling it out and dragging it over to your desk. Really. Why can’t we have a nice, normal-sized Merriam-Webster with adequate content?

Oh well. Overall it’s an excellent reference work. Consider finding it a permanent home on top of your desk, whence it will never have to migrate. 😉

Victoria Hay, Ph.D.
Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education
Plain & Simple Press: An imprint of The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.
Writers Plain & Simple Blog

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