While you are writing essays it is useful to have some reference books to hand.  Although there is a great deal of material online to help with general reference queries, websites are not always reliable.  It pays to have some decent reference books.  Some of these will be available to borrow from the local library or university library, so that you can try them out and see which titles you prefer.  However, in time you will probably want to buy several of these.  Below we deal with some of the general language texts that can help you with your writing and essay proofreading.

Essay proofreading with dictionaries

An English language dictionary is the most basic reference text that every essay writer should have.  A dictionary will help you with spellings, meanings and etymology (the origin or history of a word) and is invaluable during the essay editing phase.  You really do need to purchase a dictionary, rather than borrow one.

Spend some time in a bookshop browsing through the different dictionaries and select one from a reputable publisher (like Oxford University Press, Longman, Collins or Chambers).

There are some reliable online dictionaries (such as Merriam Webster and Collins), however there are also some hit-and-miss dictionary sites.  It is recommended to stick to those online sources produced by reputable publishers.

Essay help – the thesaurus

A thesaurus gives you groups of words with similar meanings.  It can be particularly helpful when you are writing long essays and you find yourself repeating the same word over and over again.  Roget’s Thesaurus is a popular title, but other publishers like Oxford, Collins and Chambers publish their own versions.  A thesaurus won’t provide you with the meanings of words, so you need to be careful that you understand what the word means and how it should be used, rather than pull words out at random.

Good essay spelling

If you want a small spelling book, the “New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors” is simply a list of common words.  If you are unsure of a spelling or of where to place a hyphen or to capitalize a letter, then this little book could be just what you need.

These are the basic reference texts, but there are more for other essay writing issues.  Have you found a reference title you just can’t do without?  Share your favourites by posting a comment below.