ClearTips: Edit yourself


Keep a dictionary within reach when you are writing or editing. Many editors use the tenth edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1994).

  • Use it to find out what words mean and to confirm that words mean what you think they mean.
  • Use it to find out the preferred spelling of a word.
  • Use it to see a word in context: dialectical, a ~ philosopher.
  • Use it to find out what preposition to use: methodical, ~ in his daily routine.
  • Use it to see how seeming synonyms can be differentiated. For example, see the entry for masterful in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary to see how that word can be differentiated from domineering, imperious, peremptory, and imperative.

A dictionary also helps in finding the accepted spelling of the names of people and places. And many dictionaries have a section on style and punctuation (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, pp. 1535–57).

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