Write like a pro with Oxford Dictionaries

Hiru Amin, Central Reference Library, writes: 

I have spent hours at Kensington Central Reference Library, browsing and deliberating on the information in the vast range of books, but there are more ways of continuing to use reference works for those people who have access to the internet at home.  The Oxford Dictionaries Pro is one such online resource.



These are some of the gems which are useful for students, general reference enquirers and enthusiasts and writers in the Explore and the Premium sections of Oxford Pro:

  • OxfordWords blog
  • Wordlists
  • Your Language questions
  • Games and quizzes
  • Word origins
  • Oxford Dictionaries Community
  • New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide
  • New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors
  • Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage
  • Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage


Language and translations

The Oxford Dictionaries Pro is a useful and magical resource for anyone seeking information on word meanings and origins.   Those people seeking translations of single words or sentences, can get very quick answers from English to German, French, Spanish, Arabic and visa versa.  Google is great for translations, but give this a try, it is equally brilliant and the answers are professionally sourced!  Bookmarking this resource would be quicker than seeking answers by general Googling or going off to find a book.


Word Style


Oxford’s Style Guide, New Hart’s Rule and the writers and editors dictionaries are essential for students or writers of any subject whether for print or online.  Every aspect of writing is covered from spelling and punctuation to capitalisation, using quotations, how to write books titles and bibliographies to typography and copyright.    All categories of writing are covered from science and mathematical, art and illustration to indexing and listings.

An example of how to use punctuation in writing :

 An ellipsis at the end of an incomplete sentence is not followed by a fourth full point. When an incomplete sentence is an embedded quotation within a larger complete sentence, the normal sentence full point is added after the final quotation mark:

I only said, ‘If we could …’.

And an example of useful information on page design, very useful not only publishing work but also daily displays and report writing:

The aesthetics of page design often dictate the layout of illustrations for print output. Pictures generally appear at the bottom or top of a printed page, or may bleed over the cut edge. Illustrations to be set landscape should always be placed with the head of the illustration turned to the left. In double-column formats, multiple illustrations should follow the flow of the text on the page: down the left column and then down the right. Running heads and page numbers are generally omitted from full-page illustrations in books…


Blog about a blog



You can be sure that the Blogs section in Oxford Dictionaries Pro will leave you intrigued and thirsty for more blogs about languages- or even to write your own blog!  Elephants in English is one such blog, full of amazing history and facts to tempt you to seek further information on this subject or other subjects. Every aspect of elephant is covered from when the elephant first triumphed in the English language:

…and it was from Latin sources that elephants first came to the notice of English writers. The earliest references to elephants are found in Old English literature, where they are called elps, a severely shortened form of Latin elephantem. Later texts use a fuller form of the word, oliphant, which is also (in the variant form oliphaunt) what the Hobbits in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings called the elephant-type creatures of Middle Earth.

 There lots of other blogs to read and equally interesting, such as What’s in a name…Bob’s your uncle and some blogs on the origins of everyday expressions.


From A-line to Zwinglian

There are many fascinating volumes in the reference library but a firm favourite for many is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

It’s brilliant for the cruciverbalist, writer, journalist, student, and quiz-setter alike, but most of all for the casual reader: once you’ve started browsing, you just can’t stop. Every page reveals hidden gems; you are compelled to cross-reference, cross-cross-reference, double-check, turn back, and before you know it you’ve read the thing from cover to cover (no mean feat: the latest edition is 1,460 pages).

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It’s a triumph of informative, witty, insightful, brief,  intelligent and fascinating writing, rewarding the reader with many “so –that’s-what-that-means” moments. Open it at random and your eye is caught by:

Grey hen, A. a stone bottle for holding liquor. Large and small pewter pots mixed together are called hens and chickens.

Joe Sixpack: A Us term for the ordinary beer-drinking working man (a sixpack contains six cans of beer)

Baker’s cyst: a firm, fluid-filled lump the size of a walnut behind the knee…

There are lists galore:

Nouns: A murder of crows. A business of ferrets. A charm of finches.  A clowder of cats. A murmuration of starlings. An exaltation of larks (plus many more!)

Organ stops: Bourdon, low and booming. Clarabella, bright and fluting. Cor de nuit, lowish and metallic. Dulciana, soft and string-like. Unda maris, soft and tremulous.

Pasta: Bucatini, (“little holes”) small thin hollow tubes. Linguini, (“little tongues”). Ravioli, (“little turnips”) small square envelopes stuffed with filling. Ziti, (“bridegrooms”) medium-sized tubes…

Modern expressions too, are listed and give pause for thought: the phrase “Extraordinary Rendition” is dissected as  “a masterpiece of the euphemizer’s art, cloaking the unpalatable in the polysyllabic obscurity of words used with pompous literalness”: a definition that writer Phillip Pullman, the author of the 18th edition foreword, called “a little gem of scorn”.

So if you want to find out who Walter Plinge is, how to make Red Biddy, or where you can visit Blackstable, Knype or Thrums, ask for Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable from your reference library and settle down for a good read…