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Ron’s Tip of the Day Dictionaries

Welcome to Ron’s Tip of the Day. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays I will share a tip with you. Today I am looking at Dictionaries.

Seems like such a simple subject. You need a dictionary. End of story.

Not so fast.

Dictionaries change. Sometimes they change for the better, but all to often the changes are only reflective of modern opinion.

I use older dictionaries for historical novels.

The society we live in changes the meaning of words because of politics or social change rather than the actual meaning. For example, the word gay used to mean a happy person, but today it is in reference to a lifestyle. If you want the words to reflect historically accurate then you need a historically accurate dictionary.

On the other hand, I want a modern dictionary for my Speculative books. Try finding anything to do with spaceships in an older dictionary.

Why do Dictionaries change?

Because of profits. They compete with one another. Also, new words and terms are always appearing, so they want to be up to date. I believe newer dictionaries are influenced by political correctness. That last item is a good reason to use an older dictionary.

Also, word meanings do naturally change over time. This is important to recognize. Some dictionaries will show the newest meaning and the older or archaic meaning.

What Should an Author do?

I think you need both an older dictionary and a modern dictionary. Wouldn’t it be funny if someone wrote a time-travel novel in which the time-traveler uses words with modern meanings when speaking to someone back in the 19th century or before. That could be hilarious.

Tip of the Day: Get both older and modern dictionaries as resources.

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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. He is also an author of Historical, Speculative, and Mystery fiction, plus co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books. To reply to any blog you can comment on a blog and/or send an email to His Facebook page is at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

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