Your Dictionary, Your Friend

Online reference sites are convenient, but you'll have to pry these from my cold, dead hands...

As a writer, I have no shame in admitting I use my dictionary every day and my thesaurus most days. But when writing against a deadline, sometimes it’s easier to open one of my bookmarked online resources, rather than chancing yet another paper cut! There are oodles of online options regarding dictionaries, thesauruses, grammar help and the like, but some are better than others. If you find your word processing spell check/grammar tool more amusing than enlightening, here are some helpful sites for your bookmarking consideration:

Yes, I’m in Love with a Book (Merriam-Webster’s): There’s just no getting around this one – whether it’s the traditional print or online version, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is a choice lexicon. What’s nice about the online version is that it also offers you a thesaurus tab/search field, which is quite handy. Other convenient features include a Spanish-English tab, a medical terminology tab, and a New Words & Slang feature that is epiphanal (go look it up yourself). is Exceptional, Masterly, and Transcendent: When my beloved Merriam-Webster’s doesn’t fulfill all my synonym cravings, I usually turn to It’s embedded within the site, but you can bookmark the thesaurus as a standalone. This site also provides a word’s antonyms, just in case the original word you seek isn’t at all what you actually need. Something else that makes a great online resource is its Visual Thesaurus feature. That’s correct – this site maps out how other words relate to your particular word visually. Go on, bookmark it right now; I’ll wait for you…

Oxford Dictionaries (OD) Is a Right Proper Site, but…: I’m going to admit that this site is a recent addition to my online reference repertoire. Some nice features on the OD site are the ‘World of words’ blog, the ‘Puzzles and games’ page that will keep your neurotransmitters rapid-fire quick, and the ‘Better writing’ page with tips regarding the usual suspects (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.). While you’re given free access to Oxford Dictionaries, it is not as generous a resource as Oxford Dictionaries Pro (ODP), which costs $49.95 for an annual subscription. Be forewarned that the free version of OD doesn’t include a thesaurus (how scandalous, scurrilous, shameful, and shocking – yes, I sourced these lovely synonyms from a FREE online thesaurus…). Decide for yourself whether or not ODP is worth your hard-earned American dollars – I’m sticking with the free version for now.

The Free Dictionary is a Bag Brimming with International Halloween Treats: This site refers to itself as the world’s most comprehensive dictionary; believe me when I say this is no exaggeration! While the English dictionary on this site offers typical lexicon fare (dictionary/thesaurus, antonyms) and some more exotically tempting tidbits (medical and legal dictionaries), the vast range of international dictionaries will astound you. You’re not defining words merely in Spanish, French, and Italian – there are also German, Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian, Greek, Russian, and Turkish dictionaries available. The search function for the non-English languages is a wee bit convoluted, but I think this site is bookmark-worthy and full of literary entertainment value.

The Omnipotent Grammar Girl Knows All, Punctuates All: If you’re not yet aware of Grammar Girl’s “Quick and Dirty Tips,” you’re missing out on the best general grammar/punctuation assistance available online. Many of Grammar Girl’s grammatical “episodes” are in response to questions from her loyal and plentiful subscribers. I do notice there are plenty of guest writers on the site, but that’s a good way to find other helpful grammatical gurus online. Apparently, Grammar Girl offers much more than tips for better writing. Her site also includes other informational resources, such as “Money,” “Career & Work,” “Lifestyle,” “Pets,” etc. I can’t vouch for these other reference sources, but I do highly recommend bookmarking the Grammar Girl site.

What online dictionary, thesaurus, or grammar resources do you use that you’d like to share? Please donate generously – I know I’m not the only writer and small (um, micro) business owner who uses such websites. Thanks for perusing this post, gentle reader!

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