Oxford Dictionaries Online, Part 2: Over the Pay Wall

by Erin Brenner on July 22, 2010

Last time, I introduced you to the new Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO). We looked at the site overall and at what the free side offers. Today, we look at the pay side.

The Pay Side

If you decide to bite the bullet and pay for more ODO, you really will get more. All those 350,000 terms include many examples sentences, not just one. In addition, some of the words in the definition have pop-up boxes (when clicked on) with a brief definition and a link to the term. Plus you get a “categories” link, which pops up a box of categories the term is listed under for that definition. For example, the first definition ofvarietal is “(of a wine or grape) made from or belonging to a single specified variety of grape” and is categorized as “Consumables » Drink » Wine.” Clicking on a word in the categories box brings you to a search results page of all the words in that category. A second meaning of varietal is “chiefly Botany & Zoologyof, relating to, characteristic of, or forming a variety:varietal names.” Its categories are “Sciences » Life sciences » Biology » Zoology” and “Sciences » Life sciences » Biology » Botany.”

With your subscription, you can also search Oxford’s thesaurus, which is accessible on the home page or through the search box available on every page.

The subscriber side also offers other sections:

  • Example sentences: Plug a word or phrase into the search box and get an exhaustive list of example sentences that contain your search term.
  • Writing skills: Similar to the “Better writing” section on the free side, this section offers a lot more information in each topic.
  • For writers and editors: This section is worth the price of admission, folks. Within the US English version, ODO allows you to search US Hart’s Rules, Garner’s Modern American Usage, New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (ODWE), and New Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors (ODSWE). On the World English side (which you can switch to easily on the home page), you can search through New Hart’s Rules, Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and the aforementioned ODWE and ODSWE. Swoon!
  • Puzzles: This section is the same as on the free side.
  • Word of the Day: This section is the same as on the free side.
  • My Oxford Dictionary: My Oxford Dictionary allows you to create a profile and then save searches and terms on the site. My Entries are recently viewed entries, and My Searches are recently viewed searches. Saved searches and terms can be organized into “folders,” but the content really doesn’t reside there; it resides in the site content. The folders are a bit more than tags but less than actual folders. Still, it’s a nice organizing option if you’re doing a lot of research.

The cost of a subscription is $49.95 a year. Let’s put that into perspective. Here are some other year-subscription prices:

  • Merriam-Webster Unabridged: $29.95. This subscription includes access to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged; the collegiate version of the Merriam-Webster’s (M-W’s) dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia; and a medical dictionary, a Spanish-English dictionary, a French-English dictionary, an atlas, and a style guide, all from M-W.
  • Visual Thesaurus (VT): $19.95. A subscription includes access to the thesaurus (laid out in graphic form; I’ve raved about it before), plus word lists, blog posts from many experts (including yours truly), and puzzles.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS): $30. In addition to access to the manual itself, a subscription includes a section of Q&As answered by CMS editors, a forum, and tools to help with manuscript preparation. Just being able to search this style behemoth is a godsend.
  • Associated Press Style (AP): $25. In addition to the searchable manual, you get the ability to add your own entries, access to Ask the Editor for style questions, and more. (Look for a review later this summer.)

I’m not sure how many people could afford to subscribe to them all (I sure can’t!), but at the rate new print versions are coming out and the rate at which language changes, you could do worse that a subscription to ODO, with the thesaurus and usage guides coming with it. New editions of APA and Garner came out last year, while Chicago and AP release new ones this year. Add a style guide subscription and you’ve got the beginnings of a decent online reference library that is always up to date. Splurge and get VT–not just because my posts are sometimes there, but because the way they show word relationships is outstanding–and an iPad and you’ll be the coolest word geek on the block.

In upcoming posts, I’ll review the new editions of Chicago and AP as well as a new online release of Oxford English Dictionary. If your favorite online or offline reference hasn’t been reviewed yet, let me know and I’ll consider it for a future post.

Previous post:

Next post: