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Word for Word

Clark, Stewart; Pointon, Graham
Publisher:  Oxford University Press
Year Published:  2003  
Pages:  250pp   ISBN:  0-19-432755-8

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The authors, both academics, try to explain the differences between word usages. Here are about 3000 examples that are confusing because they look alike, sound alike, or seem alike. Entries are alphabetically arranged, and words are grouped together for easy comparison. Each entry has definitions, sample sentences, spelling and pronunciation guides, and usage advice. There are indications for American English (AE) and British English (BE). About 100 sidebars cover topics such as the major overall differences between AE and BE, tips on language traps, genitive cases. There is good coverage of homographs (words that are spelled the same but mean different things).

Some examples: Asian (for people) and Asiatic (for geography), ability and capacity, cite - site - sight, choose - select - pick, interval (BE) and intermission (AE), responsible and accountable, scissors and pair of scissors, pore and pour.

Some interesting facts: the authors deal with the use of the semi-colon (now in decline) and other punctuation marks.

What I don't like about this resource: it still takes some guesswork to look things up since there is only one entry, e.g., abuse and misuse. There is neither entry nor cross-reference back from "misuse" to "abuse". You have to use the index to catch this usage.

What I do like about this resource: there is a goof-proof section on how to use the book, as well as a nice bibliography of 26 items.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 90.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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