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Archive for October, 2011

Reading for pleasure or for a class

 Whether reading for pleasure or for a class, one will encounter unfamiliar words. Often one can use context clues to determine the meaning of an unknown word. However, when no hints are offered, it is wise to look up a new word in a good dictionary. Do not use your cell phone’s dictionary! These five online resources are also a good place to find a definition.
o   Dictionary
o   Thesaurus
o   Idioms
o   Medical Dictionary
o   Word Browser
o   Acronyms and Abbreviations
In addition, the Free Dictionary has a collection of dictionaries by subject including medical and legal in ten languages.
o   Reverse dictionary
o   Wildcard – use when you don’t know how to spell a word.
o   Translations
Onelook’s best and most unique feature its’ reserve dictionary. One can enter a definition and find the word.
o   Bilingual English-Spanish Dictionary
o   Thesaurus
o   Business English Dictionary
o   Idioms and Phrasal Verbs
o   Resources include Word of the Day
Visit this site for “a range of dictionaries for learners of English all around the world” including American English and British English.
Enter a word to find its:
o   Rhymes
o   Synonym
o   Definitions
o   Picture
o   Use in Shakespeare
o   Use in quotations
RefSeek’s is a guide to the 30 best online dictionaries, thesauri, and definition aggregators.

Sumitted by Gloria Woods


Over time, English has evolved a variety of shorthand ways for a writer to quietly comment on, expand, elucidate, or provide examples.  Using them can liven up our prose while, at the same time, making it more precise, clear, and explanatory.

In writing a sentence, it’s obviously important not to wander around.  But sometimes (such as right here) you will wish to insert something that is relevant “meaningwise” even if it’s not entirely relevant “sentencewise”.

The primary tools we have to accomplish this are dashes, parentheses, and brackets.

Dashes indicate that what is between them is in the nature of an “aside”.

“Her fast-but not fast enough for her-rise to the top of the corporate ladder was the result of a lot of hard work.”

Google-ambitiously, one might have said-takes its name from the very large number, the googol: a 1 followed by 100 zeroes.”

(NOTE:  a hyphen is not the same thing as a dash.  A hyphen is word glue: you use it to make a single modifier by sticking together several words.

Guns-on-the-table poker game; 20th-Century man;  one-year-old child; not-for-profit agency.

You also use it when you choose to spell out numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine.)

Parentheses enclose words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs that are technically very much off the topic, yet still comment on the topic.

You can insert parenthetical elements into sentences, or-as in the segment above on hyphens-they can stand entirely on their own.  In either case (This can require some thought.) you punctuate one as a sentence if it is one; you do not if it is not.

One word that is almost always parenthetical is “sic”, a Latin word meaning “so” or “thus”.  We use it mostly when we are quoting another writer’s words to indicate something like:  “Hey, I know he misspelled that word-or used the wrong word-and I wanted to make sure you knew I knew!”  Thus:

“Pittsburgh and the nearby Ohio and Monongahela river valleys were once the center of the country’s steal (sic) manufacturing.”

Brackets enclose words or phrases in a quote that were not used by original writer-usually because the quote has been taken out of context.  Include them in brackets to make it clear that you (not the original author)  are responsible for adding them:

“It [the money] went a long way to guaranteeing the bill’s passage.”

” . . . supervision, goal-setting, and review [are] aspects of her job.”