Magazine article Training & Development

Words to the Wired

Magazine article Training & Development

Words to the Wired

Article excerpt

The next time that you have to write a business document, look at these Websites offering assistance on usage, grammar, and foreign translation.

Dictionaries. With online dictionaries, you don't have to store hefty tomes on your bookshelf. Instead, point your Web browser to yourdictionary.com, a compendium of more than 1,500 dictionaries in 230 languages. The site was selected as "Best of the Web for Reference" by Forbes and is overseen by an advisory council of two dozen linguistic experts.

Right from the homepage, you can quickly look up a word in the dictionary or thesaurus. The results page not only gives the meaning and etymology, but also shows which dictionary provided the definition. Even if you misspell, yourdictionary.com usually figures out what you mean. The homepage has links to dictionaries in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, and Thai. It also features a Word of the Day, which you can have emailed to you daily.

Other features: Game Room has links to crosswords, anagrams, encryptions, and other word games. Library has articles about language, including the regular columns, Dr. Language and Word Man.

Thesauruses. Roget's is usually considered the king of thesauruses and can be found online at thesaurus.com. Its home-page offers a quick look-up on the top navigation bar. Other interesting features include language discussion forums, games, and an antonym finder. I entered "productive" and got these antonyms: inoperative, barren, addled, unfertile, and unprolific, among others. Keep this site in mind the next time you have a performance evaluation to write.

Usage and style questions. For questions of usage and style in American English, there's no more respected source than Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. It's online at bartleby.com, located by selecting Reference, then Usage. You can do a quick search or make a selection from the table of contents.

For newly coined phrases and technical terms, not to mention a cool-looking site, visit Wired Style at hotwired. lycos.com/hardwired/wiredstyle. The site began as a list compiled by the editors at Wired when traditional style manuals didn't answer their questions about writing for the digital world.

To avoid the common trap of overblown and wordy business writing, launch a preemptive strike by reviewing Dead- wood Phrases, a section of an online usage guide created by Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a government contractor in Richland, Washington. It's at www.pnl.gov/ag/usage/deadwood.html, and features a list of deadwood phrases with suggestions for more concise wording. For example, the guide suggests replacing It is our opinion that with We think.

A list of Simpler Words and Phrases can be found at www.smartbiz.com/sbs/arts/tpl5.htm. The site offers suggestions for simplifying your writing. For example, instead of designate, you might use appoint, choose, or name.

It's best to avoid using cliches, but if you must find one, visit utopia.knoware.nl/users/sybev/cliche. The cliches are organized into common situations, such as For When You Feel Really Bad. In the category For When There Is Too Much Work, you'll find such gems as, "Poor planning on your part does not create an emergency on my part."

Grammar. …

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