We find out many things by personal observation, using our five senses, and constantly relate new observations to our previous experience. Most of our writing in business is based on this store of knowledge. Often if we require further information relating to our work we can ask a colleague for advice, or make use of information stored in company records (for example, in files of correspondence, in minutes of meetings and associated papers, in reports and in specifications). This chapter is about finding and using other sources of information.
Information technology is concerned with electronic methods of cataloguing, communicating, processing, storing, retrieving and publishing information. People speak of the electronic office as a place where there is no need for paper, but much information is still recorded, stored and communicated on paper.
Dictionaries are available for most languages and for most other subjects. For anyone writing at work, a good dictionary of the English language is an essential reference book. It provides a guide to much more than correct spelling (see page 67), so the spell checker on a computer is not an alternative. For anyone who needs more information than can be included in a desk dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary is a printed multi-volume work with CD-ROM and on-line versions that provide access from a computer terminal to a database comprising more than 500 000 words.