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Pretty much before this supposedly paradigm-shifting dictionary even rolled off the presses, the Associated Press nailed them for a series of inconsistencies which call the book's value as a reference into question. The problems range from referring to Abigail Adams not as "first lady" but as a "feminist" to referring to J. Edgar Hoover as only "a lawyer."  Perhaps the most frightening is calling Francisco Franco an "authoritarian leader" but Joseph Stalin merely a "statesman."   It's doubtless a tough task to maintain consistency throughout a work of 1728 pages that contains a whopping 320,000 entries, but mistakes like these are troubling.

On the plus side, the book does have a few decent innovations, like intentional listings of commonly misspelled words (with a slash through them) which guide you to the correct spelling.  There's also a guide to doing research on the Internet and an English Usage Guide, though one would hope that every college student still has a Strunk & White on his desk.

In the end though, the book must be judged by the standard it sets for itself : "The First Dictionary for the Internet Age."  This strikes me as silly.  The promise of the Internet is that it can place all kinds of information right at anyone's fingertips with the tap of a few keys; what then is the need for a paper dictionary ? It will be argued that there are times when you will want to look up a word without logging on.  However, this dictionary is quite specifically targeted at college students and intended to help them write their papers.  At such times, it seems safe to assume they will be on a computer, does it not ?

I can only speak for myself here, but I look up a lot of words and I always use the online dictionaries.  And if I want to know about Francisco Franco, I use an online encyclopaedia and a search engine.  If this is true of a forty year old man who doesn't know how to type, what are the chances that some punk kid is going to grab a reference book ?  I'd assume none.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Reference Books
Book-related and General Links:
    -BOOK SITE : Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary :  The First Dictionary for the Internet Age By Anne Soukhanov, editor (FSB Associates)
    -BOOKSITE : Encarta World English Dictionary
    -ESSAY : Word Watch : A selection of terms that have newly been coined, that have recently acquired new currency, or that have taken on new meanings, compiled by the U.S. general editor of The Encarta World English Dictionary (1999).  (Anne H. Soukhanov, Atlantic Monthly)
    -INTERVIEW : A Richly Capable Mother Tongue :  An e-mail exchange with Anne Soukhanov, the U.S. general editor of the Encarta World English Dictionary (Barbara Wallraff, Atlantic Monthly)
    -CHAT TRANSCRIPT : Anne Soukhanov (Washington Post Online)
    -ESSAY : Dueling Dictionaries : New Encarta Has Lexicographers Ready to Rhetorically Rumble  (Linton Weeks, June 28, 2001, Washington Post)
    -ARCHIVES : "Anne Soukhanov"  (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (HILLEL ITALIE, Associated Press)
    -Samples of inconsistencies in the Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (AP)
    -REVIEW : Encarta Concise English Dictionary   eds Kathy Rooney et al (Steven Poole, The Guardian)

    -The American Heritage® Dictionary of  the English Language  Fourth Edition (Bartleby)
    -Bartlett's Familiar Quotations
    -Cliche Finder
    -Common Errors in English
    -Direct Search (research search engine)
    -The Elements of Style (etext of 1918 version)
    -Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia
    -Information Please Almanac
    -Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    -The Semantic Rhyming Dictionary (will find words that rhyme with yours) encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms
    -Voycabulary (converts any webpage to a vocabulary builder)
    -Web of Online Dictionaries (135 languages)
    -Welcome to Who's Who Online®
    -World Wide Words (Exploring the English Language)
    -WWWebster Dictionary
    -xrefer : Free access to over 250,000 entries - facts, words, concepts, people & quotations