Tag Archives: proofreading

Bragging Rights

Today is the official release day of the New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition.  I can’t describe it better than OUP’s website:

As Oxford’s flagship American dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary sets the standard of excellence for lexicography in this country. With more than 350,000 words, phrases, and senses, hundreds of explanatory notes, and more than a thousand illustrations, this dictionary provides the most comprehensive and accurate coverage of American English available.

I am proud to have worked on the first edition, and this one, the third. I was art editor and editorial assistant for the first edition and contracted out 1200 illustrations by several amazing artists back in Connecticut—and many of the illustrations, including some new ones,  are mine. There’s no room in dictionary illustration for cheating or sentiment. They must be absolutely accurate. To draw dictionary illustrations an artist must seek out excellent references on the subject, and that’s often not easy. The pictures don’t fall out of our heads.

No one who loves and uses dictionaries would believe how much work goes into creating one—every tiny revision has consequences. Thousands of new words are assessed, others deleted. There are hundreds of editorial tasks to be done including a huge proofreading effort by a stable of some of the most experienced dictionary proofreaders in the US, including yours truly! I have never written about working on dictionaries before so it’s tumbling out! I think the main point about dictionary work is this: anything included must be true. Think of the thousands of subjects a dictionary covers—making sure every definition is the truth requires an enormous amount of research but it’s an obligation taken very seriously. And deadline time is as crazy as in any job with late nights, too much coffee, and blurry eyes for all involved.

This dictionary is also available as an online subscription.