How to Use a Dictionary Well

How to check the spelling of a word

The best way to learn how to spell a word is to find it in the Dictionary. To find words in the Dictionary it is important to know the alphabet well. You will need to be able to judge quickly whether any word comes before or after another one, this is called alphabetical order. If the first letters of two words are the same, look at the next letters to decide the correct order.

Example: dare, dart, darn - in the case of these three words, 'dare' comes first, 'darn' second, and 'dart' last. The first three letters 'd', 'a', and 'r' are the same in all three words so the correct alphabetical order is based on the fourth letter.

How to find a word in the Dictionary

Words are printed in large bold type at the upper top left-hand and right-hand corner of any page to help you quickly find a word in the Dictionary. The first of these two words show you which is the first word on that page, the second shows you which is the last words to be found on that page.

Example: You are looking for the word 'signal'. You can find 'signal' on the page which has the two words Signac and silage (example taken from the Collins English Dictionary) printed at the upper top left-hand and right-hand corner.

Understanding definitions

Once you have found the word you are looking for you need to understand a few common conventions to make best use of your dictionary.

Here is an example entry in a dictionary:

feat (fi:t) n. a remarkable, skillful, or daring action; exploit; achievement: feats of strength... (example taken from the Collins English Dictionary)

  1. feat - the defined word
  2. (fi:t) - a phonological transcription of the word (the correct pronunciation), usually using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
  1. n. - the part of speech, in this case 'n.' means noun (look for a list of abbreviations used in your Dictionary usually included on one of the first few pages).
  2. a remarkable, skillful, or daring action; exploit; achievement: definitions of the word. Different meanings of a word will be separated by numbers.
  3. feats of strength - an example sentence using the defined word

How to Spell Noun Plurals

How to Use a Dictionary

Differences Between American and British Spellings

How to Divide Words When Typing