“Bryson’s Dictionary For Writers and Editors” by Bill Bryson (Broadway, 2008)

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Bestselling author Bill Bryson has already amassed quite a career for himself with successful travel writing books like A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as books on literature and language like The Mother Tongue and Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and even attempting to present a concise history of science with A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bryson now returns with Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

He admits in his preface that it is a personal collection, “built over thirty years as a writer and editor in two countries,” and that some of the obscure references and definitions may not be useful to many, like the name of the Sydney district Woolloomooloo, or that the residence of the Danish Royal Family in Copenhagen is the Amalienborg Palace. Nevertheless, Bryson addresses many of the common issues that make a writer hesitate – amoral or immoral? Effect or affect?  He dispenses with the dictionary’s phonetic alphabet, instead providing pronunciation help where necessary; as well as cross indexing so that in the example mentioned above, the entry can be found filed under both amoral and immoral for the writer’s and editor’s ease.

Bryson’s Dictionary is filled with innumerable references and spellings for authors, book titles, series, philosophers, scientists . . . you name it, making them even easier to find than looking up on the Internet.  Bryson also includes appendices of punctuation and its definitions, words ending in –able and –ible, a list of the world’s airports and their codes, the different currencies of the world, conversion tables, and an extensive glossary on grammar.

Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors is the ideal book for most people who do any sort of reading and writing, whether it is the freshman heading off for college for the first time, the freelance writer looking to get published, or the retired crossword addict looking for exact spelling at their fingertips.

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Originally written on July 11th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.