Word Choice – Electronic Dictionaries

As I explained in an earlier BizWritingTip, every business writer should have access to a good dictionary. Relying solely on your computer’s spell checker is not a good idea. It just doesn’t provide enough information. Frankly, I’m old fashioned and enjoy the feel of a print dictionary. I really like my old Oxford Canadian Dictionary.

However, I realize there a number of people – for a variety of reasons — who prefer an electronic version. That’s why I asked my BizWritingTip readers to tell me their favourite, free online dictionaries. Here are the more popular sites along with my comments.


I liked this site. Cambridge Dictionaries Online is clean, easy to use and does not overwhelm you with information or advertising. The variations in spelling are US and UK. There is also access to audio pronunciations and a thesaurus.


The Merriam-Webster site is easy to navigate, but the site is so visually busy that it takes time to find the information you want. Canadian and UK spellings are listed as variants of words. I found the pop-up advertising distracting.


Newbury House Dictionary of American English has a site that is easy to use and attractive. It gives information on parts of speech, definitions, and how to use the word in a sentence. You can also browse other words. Their name is correct. It is a great site for American English. If you try “colour,” it asks whether the word is misspelled.


This site provides all the information you need in a dictionary and more. You can obtain puzzles and crosswords, related searches for words, and even translations in other languages. I spent longer than I intended on this site because there were so many other intriguing offerings. My only complaint is that all the advertising on the site is distracting. However, this is a free service, and they have to pay their bills.


This site claims it is “your best source of information on everything — offering entries from the world’s leading reference publications along with Q&A from our community.” It truly does offer a lot of information — as well as advertising. The site is useful both as a dictionary and an encyclopedia, and it lists spelling variations.

Many thanks to all the readers who took the time to share their recommendations.