One of my longtime favorite 19th Century authors, Mark Twain, had a very good quote about how important it is for writers to choose the right words when composing their literary works. He said that even though there might be a whole handful of words that may adequately convey an idea, the difference between choosing any old word, and the absotively perfect word, “is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
One of my new favorite 21st Century authors Laurie Endicott Thomas, author of– Not Trivial: How Studying the Traditional Liberal Arts Can Set You Free
–agrees with Mr. Twain. I had the honor and pleasure of reading, in its pre-published state, an excellent book that has taught me much. It has helped my writing immensely. I have a few pages to go before I can call it completely read. Like no other book I’ve read, I plan to immediately go back and read it again. Then, I’m planning to write a ton of content inspired by the ideas in this book. I recommend it highly for anyone who is or has written and published content online. For those who write for Bangari, I won’t say it’s mandatory reading…But I will say it’s essential. Here is some of Laurie’s very qualified advice for writers, put into my own words so I am not producing duplicate content or plagiarizing…
If you are an aspiring writer, you need a good habit. Get hooked on your dictionary! Codex books (that was the new invention that followed the scroll and preceded the iPad) are nice. I like to keep a good ole’ bound, paper and ink version of Webster’s Dictionary in reach when I’m writing. But of course the digital versions are exceptionally helpful. Bookmark one. The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and The American Heritage Dictionary, are both excellent. These electronic dictionaries also have a built-in thesaurus.
There is a subtle but important difference between these two dictionaries. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary lists the oldest definitions of a word first. Even if the term is out of date, it still begins the list. The American Heritage Dictionary does the opposite. In this Dictionary, you’ll find the most contemporary definition first, and any obsolete ones listed last.
Are you already a fan of dictionaries? I have been my whole life! Noah Webster is a personal hero of mine. Did you know that if you decided to compile and publish a dictionary yourself, you could name it “Webster’s?” That name isn’t copyright protected. If you did this, you could call yourself a lexicographer. A lexicographer is a person that compiles or edits dictionaries.
I want to share a little fact about dictionaries I’ve never known, after all these years, until I read it this morning in Laurie’s book. Her book is going to inspire many little tid-bits, based on the many wow-I-never-knew-that facts, hacks and nuggets of important truth found in the pages of her book. It inspired this article about the dictionary, as it will many more about other trivial things that really, are not trivial. Here it is:
Sometimes words, that you know how to spell, and know exactly what they mean, need to be hyphenated and carried to the next line. I’ve always thought that you can divide the word, wherever you like, but preferably after a syllable. Turns out, this isn’t correct. A dictionary will show the correct place to place a hyphen in a word. For example:
If the word ‘present’ meaning ‘now’ is hyphenated, it is placed after the pres-
If it is the same word, yet meaning ‘gift’ you would place the hyphen after the pre-
By Kevin Leland
Click this link to purchase Not Trivial:How Studying the Traditional Liberal Arts Can Set You Free. By Laurie Endicott Thomas
- Some Interesting Links for Antiquarian Slang Dictionaries and the Like (longstreet.typepad.com)
- Dictionaries add informal definition of ‘literally’ (prdaily.com)
- How to Edit a Dictionary (neatorama.com)