Where to Check Your Words

No wonder Charlie Brown likes her: Good penmanship & grammar.

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, when we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover together. I have a short post today with resources for anyone in the midst of writing or editing–whether that’s a novel, an essay, a resume, or a love note from the little red-haired girl.

Definitions

Does anyone even use a paper dictionary anymore? I have one on my shelf, but I am far more likely to look up the definition of a word online. To that end, here are links to internet dictionaries.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The first American dictionary was written in 1806 by Noah Webster. When he died, George and Charles Merriam purchased publishing rights. Since then, we’ve had Merriam-Webster–which is now a subsidiary of Encyclopaedia Brittanica. (See Merriam-Webster on Wikipedia.)

Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com uses several sources for its word meanings, including Random House and Heritage dictionaries.

OED Online. For the dedicated language lover, there is always the Oxford English Dictionary online. Recognized as the definitive source for all-things-English, you will have to pay, however, for this privilege. Annual subscriptions for individuals are $295.

Synonyms

Synonyms are the embodiment of the call for “the same…but different.”

Thesaurus.com. Run by the same people who brought us Dictionary.com, this is my go-to place for What’s that word? I can’t think of it. It’s kind of like “small,” but not small… Or when you’ve typed “tingled” so many times in your manuscript that your beta reader is uncomfortable, and you know you need a different word with a similar meaning.

Roget’s Thesaurus. Roget.org provides the 1911 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus online, from Project Gutenberg. The site is easy to use, but just note that newer word usages won’t be there. Most word meanings remain the same, but the English language is fluid and some things change.

A word about Synonym.com. It also promises to provide, as one might expect, synonyms for words you input. However, the database is entirely based on Microsoft Word so you’re not getting much there, plus the site is so riddled with advertisements that I clicked off within seconds of my arrival.

Rhymes

I also keep a Rhyming Dictionary, published by Random House, on my bookshelf. I have written several poems and songs, and that little dictionary came in super-handy for those projects. Even writing prose, however, I sometimes want a rhyming word. Check out the following.

RhymeZone. RhymeZone allows you to find both exact rhymes and near rhymes. For instance, exact rhymes for “corn” would be “born” or “torn,” but near rhymes include “barn” and “turn.” Results are categorized by one-syllable, two-syllable, etc., making it easy to also find the rhythm you’re seeking.

Rhymer. Rhymer is also easy to use and you can filter your search by type: such as first syllable, last syllable, and double-syllable. If you find a word in the rhyming results you’d rather use, you can also click it and find rhymes for the selected word.

Grammar

English language usage can be confusing, and we all need to look up a grammar question from time to time. I have several books on my shelf for reference, but I also go online.

Grammarly Handbook. Grammarly advertises itself as the “World’s most accurate grammar checker.” The site has specific articles on grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and style–for instance, “Prepositions of Spatial Relationship” and “Quotations within a Quotation.” The Grammarly software, or rather plug-in, can be added to existing software to check your text for grammar and style, as well as checking for possible plagiarism. I haven’t used this feature, so I don’t know whether it’s worth it. I will say that nearly anything has to be better than Microsoft Word’s anemic efforts to master grammar and language usage.

Chicago Manual of Style. In addition to my well-worn paperback Strunk and White, this site is my usual place to check current rules of grammar and style. I have a subscription, but at $35 a year, I figured it well worth my investment.

Grammar Girl. I am also partial to Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty, covers a wide range of grammar, language, and writing topics, and also answers questions sent to her by listeners and readers. You can search her articles for an answer to your specific question.

Your turn. What are your favorite resources for checking your words?

Not good at this yourself? If your manuscript needs a thorough copy-edit by someone who knows and loves spelling, grammar, punctuation, and all of that stuff, check out my Copy Editing services. Oh, and if you find a mistake in this post, let me know. 🙂

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26 thoughts on “Where to Check Your Words

  1. All of my favorite things, Julie! I have a giant copy of the American Heritage dictionary at work–I will go to it sometimes before I go online. I also have the college English grammar text book handy that I used when I taught that class (to my daughter’s annoyance when she has papers due). I’ll have to check out the Grammarly Handbook and the rhyming references.

      1. Microsoft Word has grammar check? LOL. I rarely use Word anymore, so it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I learned to ignore those green squiggly lines under complete sentences that Word believed to be fragments. Sheesh!

  2. Love it, Julie!! I’ll be sure to bookmark this for those times when I’m frantically running around, looking for the proper use of some word or the other. 🙂

  3. Julie, you’ve listed my file folder of “favorite wordy things.” These are all great resources and not to be overlooked by those of us obsessed with words and their usage. Great post!

  4. I wanted to enter an endorsement for Julie’s services. She is conscientious and meticulous. And, if you know she’s right but want want to understand WHY, she’ll explain gracefully.

  5. I’m glad to hear that the older Roget’s is online… Though I’ve let my subscription lapse, this was a great online thesaurus/dictionary: http://www.visualthesaurus.com

    Oddly, I still find myself using my big older paper dictionaries… I still like that “sinking into them and being distracted by all the cool things I pass along the way to the word I need”.

    For quick and dirty… I have WordWeb setup in my system tray.

    And I’ve been known to haunt Bartleby.com for a bunch of various references…

    1. That Visual Thesaurus looks so cool! I think how it shows the connection to the original word. Thanks for sharing, Eden!

      I’ve also found myself at Bartleby.com from time to time. Thanks!

      1. You’re welcome, Julie. One of the best things about being part of an online community is being able to share tools and tips with each other, imho.

  6. Thank you so much, Julie! I use some of these A LOT and am glad to learn about the others. I’m favoriting this one. And yes – I just made up that word. LOL

  7. I’m a big fan of dictionary.com and its thesaurus site as well. They’re just an easy click away if I want to use a word, but need to double check I’m using it correctly. I did not know there was such a thing as a rhyme dictionary – that is awesome!

    1. Yes, Jess, there are rhyming dictionaries! In fact, according to Rhymer, your name rhymes with such wonderful words as: bareness, bless, caress, digress, excess, express, finesse, impress, largesse, obsess, possess, profess, progress, recess, success, sundress, undress, winepress, and yes.

      Just reading that makes me think your name is RIPE for poetry! 🙂

  8. This is now bookmarked in my Writing Craft file, for future reference. I use Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com all the time, but good to know about the others. Best of luck with your copyediting service, Julie!

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