Writers: You Need an (Older) Dictionary & Encyclopedia


If you are a writer— a person who makes books happen— you need to be a book person yourself. That means you need certain books in your home. After all, what if the power goes out before your writing time? You could write in a notebook by hand and transcribe it later— but not if you need the internet to look things upWritingLife.

DICTIONARIES
Words are our tools. We need to look up words so we can spell and use them correctly— or just for the heck of it. As an elementary school child I looked up random words in the red dictionaries we all had at our desks.
You want older dictionaries. The most modern dictionaries have gone all woke and annoying. I have an e-dictionary on my Kindle, and I do look up random words while reading. I swear, it seems like the example sentences for every single word are designed to promote progressivism and defame conservatives. And they are more interested in telling you which words are now offensive than in being useful. Under the word ‘dwarf’ they say the word is offensive but also say there is no non-offensive word for a person with dwarfism. So we have to erase those people from fiction now? (Note to self: add person with dwarfism to current WIP.)
I have a number of older, saner dictionaries. If you don’t have any of your own yet, look in used book stores, thrift shops or even garage sales. Get a couple of dictionaries. A big dictionary is good. I am a language geek so I have dictionaries for a number of languages, such as German, Esperanto, Serbo-Croatian and ancient Egyptian. I also have a dictionary of 26 languages that gives 1000 common words in these languages. Great if you make up languages for science fiction or fantasy purposes.

ENCYCLOPEDIAS.
I have a number of old encyclopedias. Most American encyclopedias seem to be designed for grade school kids to use when doing their homework. The Encyclopedia Britannica I have is the most useful of my encyclopedias, it’s more designed to help the educated adult.
Mine is from sometime in the 1950s. So old that in the article on Adolf Hitler they are a little coy about saying Hitler was definitely dead lest he be caught in South America. I have looked up many topics in these books. In some cases I had to go online for more detailed information, or consult other reference books, but the encyclopedia gives me a good start.

We are book people, we writers. When we can, we should use books for our research, not Tik Tok videos of questionable accuracy. We should even own some of the books we need, so we can write in our own homes instead of libraries.
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