Finding the Write #Words? No. 34: The Oxford Spelling Dictionary

Continuing the description of books on words and language listed in the introductory post, which you’ll find here.

Book 34: The Oxford Spelling Dictionary

Hardback, 299 pages. Published in 1986 by Oxford University Press, I own a BCA edition published in 1987, which I bought as part of a bundle offered by a book club, so don’t know what it cost. It appears this is no longer available. However, the publishers have released a new edition, published in 2014, with 596 pages, to reflect the ever-growing quantity of words used in English, and priced at £11.53. I’m considering getting a copy.

My edition, compiled by R.E. Allen, has a three-page guide to its use, two pages of abbreviations and symbols used in the dictionary, and a short note on proprietary word use. The dictionary then starts with Aachen and continues alphabetically through to zy|murgy.

Opened randomly, at pages 148/149, we find ourselves in the L section. Page 148 starts with leg|ally, the | symbol indicating where the word may be split for those concerned with such technical issues for printing. And page 149 ends with lim|inal. Along the way, we come across some noun/verb variations: leg|ate n. and le|gate v.; plurals: leg|ato (pl. leg|atos); adjective/noun variations: le|gend|ary a. le|gendry n.; comparatives: leg|gy (leg|gier, leg|gi|est); gerunds: le|gis|late (le|gis|lat|ing); assimilated foreign words: lei (garland); Proper nouns: Leib|niz; comparisons: les|bian (homosexual woman) and Les|bian (of Lesbos), Anglicized words: lèse-majesté (treason; Angl. as lese-majesty); feminine/masculine forms: Les|ley fem. Les|lie masc. The listings also show the locations of towns and cities; whether a word is proprietary; gives a meaning where words of similar spelling may be confused; and provides specific definitions where similar words have different spelling (or may be capitalised) according to meaning.

In short, this is a dictionary for those users who care about getting it right (I hope that applies to all writers!) and who need to know certain technical details for occupations such as printing and editing.

I’ve used it quite frequently as, in common with most people, I have a short list of words I invariably spell incorrectly, but always think I’ve finally got it right; the book lets me know whether that’s the case, or not!

English is a complex language, made up of words from many countries, and borrows rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from the originating lands, which can make it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to the same students.

Those learning the English Language will find help on pronunciation here. And you’ll find a friendly group on Facebook through this link.

And, for those with a real interest in English and considering their future, here’s a link that suggests the many possible career opportunities open to those with a degree in the subject. It’s also a link to an online university, and therefore an advert for their services. I know nothing of the institution, but the list of possible career choices might be useful.

Earlier posts in the series can be found by clicking on the titles below.

2. A Dictionary of Misunderstood Misused Mispronounced Words.
3. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.
4. A Miscellany for Word Lovers.
6. A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang.
7. Brit-think, American-think.
8. Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
9. Collins English Dictionary.
10. Current English Usage.
11. Descriptionary; a Thematic Dictionary.
12. Divided by a Common Language.
13. Eats Shoots & Leaves.
14. English Prepositional Idioms.
15. Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
16. Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers.
17. Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder.
18. i before e (except after c).
19. Longman Companion to English Literature.
20. New Hart’s Rules.
21. New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms.
22. Oxford Compact Thesaurus.
23. Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English.
24. Roget’s Thesaurus.
25. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
26. The Dictionary of Diseased English.
27. The Elements of Style.
28. The Emotion Thesaurus.
29. The Grouchy Grammarian.
30. The Last Word.
31. The Little Red Writing Book
32. The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
33. The Oxford Manual of Style

‘Likes’ are appreciated, comments will be answered, and shares to platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc will spread the word far and wide. Thank you!

15 thoughts on “Finding the Write #Words? No. 34: The Oxford Spelling Dictionary

  1. Your comment hasn’t appeared, Joni, so not to worry. My guess is that it may be WordPress, as I had a few difficulties when I first published that post today. It seems to be alright now, however.


  2. Thank you Stuart. It sounds like a very comprehensive dictionary. Your tools listed are also very helpful. I am glad that I am not the only one who has a group of commonly misspelled words. I have wondered if you might have been a professor at some point. Another helpful and kind post. You are a gem Stuart and I feel blessed to know you. Being part of this community has enriched my life in ways I would have never known it would. Have an amazing and truly blessed day my dear friend. Sending love and hugs to you and yours. 🌸🌺Joni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joni. Not the first time I’ve been labelled a ‘professor’. Truth is, I left school at age 16, with few qualifications – my mum died 2 days after my 16th birthday and that rather interrupted those important exams. I took some more later as an adult. But most of my ‘education’ has been through reading, coupled with life itself.
      I intend to place the final post (number 40) in this series on my Resources page, where it will hopefully be helpful for other writers and learners of English. I have documents on there listing 6,000+ first names (one for males, one for females, both noting the non-gender names, and all giving the country of origin), that I compiled over a number of years. And I run a creative writing contests table, that I try to keep up to date to help writers grab some cash and kudos from competitions.
      Keep safe and stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Stuart I am sorry you lost a parent at such a young age. Also I thought you might be a professor due to your knowledge and your so well written my friend. You are a wonderful contributor and lovely friend to the entire community due to your vast knowledge of so many things and your amazing talent. Blessings to you and your loved ones. 🌸🌺Joni

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        1. Thank you, Joni. I enjoy learning, and I’ve done a lot of research for my various novels. I think many authors collect knowledge and, like me, are interested in many different things.
          Took me a long time to come to terms with Mum’s death (my step dad was driving but was completely innocent of the accident that was caused by an idiotic driver). Now, at 72, I can at least look back with real affection at the lovely time I had with my artist mother.
          You, too, have dealt with tradgedies in your life and come through strong and able.

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          1. Sounds like you got your artistic gifts from your mother as did I. I don’t think anyone is prepared for their mother’s death. I am sure you are an excellent researcher. I am curious what genre your books are or if you have written a variety? PS I am glad that you have lovely memories of your mother, I have some of my own. I think in a lot of ways as we age life can become easier in a lot of areas, at least that has been my experience. Have a truly blessed day my friend. Love and hugs, Joni

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            1. Definitely inherited my creative side from my mum. My biological dad, a mechanic and a sailor, died 3 weeks before I was born, and my stepdad was a great technical photographer but had absolutely no imagination.
              My work is all aimed at adults, Joni, and contains references and descriptions that some find difficult. This is especially the case with my science fiction writing, as it deals with world problems that I feel are likely to occur if we don’t seriously change our lifestyles. Like many scifi writers, I use the genre to warn the world.
              My epic fantasy series might be more to your liking, as that is set in an invented land ((very Earthlike) and in a time similar to our Middle Ages. If you pop up to the top of the page, click on the tab ‘Books and Other Published Works’, you’ll find a drop-down menu that leads to the different books I’ve had published. There’s also a free short story there; a seasonal piece of humour set at New Year.
              I should also let you know, since I’m aware you’re a person of faith, that I don’t have a lot of time for the church (of any religious type). That’s for reasons that would take an entire book to explain, however. I would hate to offend you, so I’d advise against the scifi trilogy. You might get away with the scifi novelette, providing you don’t mind a touch of the erotic (not, most definitely not porn!). Enjoy!

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Thank you for letting me know. I will definitely be reading your story and I am sure I will enjoy it as well. I am excited to see the description of your books as well. I think it is kind of interesting that we both wrote a book about what the world will look like if we (society) continues down the same path. Mine is based more on what happens to the environment and animals. I am impressed that you have written several books. I bet they are very well written. I am not offended by a little erotic writing at all. Yes, I am a person of great faith, but often I feel people who call themselves Christians

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                  1. Hi Stuart I am going to try using my computer again and hopefully it will work this time using reader. My book is a YA Dystopian book and I am not sure you would enjoy it. It is really written for kids between the ages of 13 to 17 but you can find it on Amazon under JK Caggiano – I was going to send the link but it is so long. I guess you could take a look at the first couple of pages and determine pretty quickly if it was for you are not. It was kind of you to ask. Thank you. Hugs, Joni

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Hi Joni. I found ‘The Path Topward the Light’ – nice cover btw. I read the Amazon ‘sample’. Looks an intriguing story, but, as you say, probably not for me – I try to avoid YA novels these days. Trouble is, there is so much to be read out there, isn’t there? I never thought I’d say, ‘There are just too many books!’ But, with millions of new titles published each year, it’s impossible to keep up; even attempting to be selective is becoming more and more difficult.
                      You should place a cover pic and buying link on your website, so people can easily find the book.
                      Good luck with the computer; I read digital books on my Kindle, as I find reading off the PC screen too much of a strain on my eyes these days.
                      Keep safe and stay well.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Thank you Stuart for looking at my book. You are right about selection. It is hard to decide what to read with limited time. Thank you for your kind words Stuart. Have an amazing day. Hugs 🤗 Joni 🌺🌸💕

                      Liked by 1 person

                1. (Sorry about that I don’t know how that comment got away from me) often give Christianity a bad name and I believe that many churches do the same thing. Everyone has the right to their own faith so I doubt you could offend me. Your series sounds very interesting and my guess is that it would be an excellent read as well. Thank you for letting me know I am very excited to start with your story. I hope you have a great weekend and that the lilies have bloomed. Your photography is interesting and beautiful. It speaks to my heart. Love and many hugs coming your way. Joni 🌺🌸❤️

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. Stuart I was just commenting on your lovely new post with the beautiful poem and pictures of the valley and while hesitating for just a moment it disappeared again. Please just delete it and I will respond again. I don’t know what is going on. When I try and respond to post with my computer I seem to be having all kinds of weird things going on. I am sorry, I don’t know if it is me or WordPress. Apologies, Joni

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