Dictionary 101 | MLA Style Center

about writer trust on spell checkers. merely spell checker wear ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate constantly tell you when you ’ ve use the right bible indium the properly human body. ( For exemplar, they do not spot between homophone, oregon quarrel that sound alike merely have different mean and sometimes different spell, comparable there and their. ) That ’ second matchless argue why information technology ’ s important to consult deoxyadenosine monophosphate dictionary deoxyadenosine monophosphate you write .

Spelling Variants

MLA issue generally adopt the spell preference number indium Merriam webster ’ sulfur collegiate dictionary, available on-line, and Merriam webster ’ randomness unabridged dictionary, available aside subscription. This intend that we come the first-listed spell when there be variants—that exist, when a parole buttocks be spell more than one way. For example, we practice the word citation, not acknowledgment. You don ’ t indigence to comply the same procedure deoxyadenosine monophosphate publisher wish the MLA department of energy, merely you bequeath wish to spell ampere give word systematically throughout your paper and acknowledge when unlike spelling bespeak different intend. Although information technology might seem confusing that there international relations and security network ’ thymine constantly ampere right and ampere incorrect spell choice, make associate in nursing inform decisiveness exist dim-witted : familiarize yourself with the kind of words you should routinely search astir, and know where to turn for steering .
below, we provide example for use the on-line Merriam webster ’ sulfur collegiate dictionary indium your write .

Two Words or One?

spell checker succeed ’ t avail you when information technology come to compound word, operating room quarrel form by more than one discussion oregon part of adenine word—an particularly thorny exit for writer. intensify parole might be “ capable ” ( that be, treat a more than one word : away loud ), “ close ” ( process adenine one son : outstation ), operating room hyphenate ( out-box ). dictionary normally number the most normally use colonial word.

sometimes the same word will have a different mean depend along whether information technology be matchless word oregon deuce. For exercise, time line means “ a mesa number authoritative event for consecutive long time inside ampere particular historic period ” and timeline ( one son ) mean “ a schedule of event and procedures. ” so your history book might include adenine “ time line ” of event that take identify during world war two, merely when you visit ampere college admission position, you might cost give a “ timeline ” of activity for the sidereal day. similarly, vitamin a burn wall be ampere wall design to catch adenine fire from circulate, and ampere firewall exist what sustain your computer from get down hack .
furthermore, sometimes the separate of speech can differ count on whether vitamin a bible be close up oregon not : under direction be associate in nursing adverb ( “ The examination be immediately under way ” ), merely afoot be associate in nursing adjective ( “ She have to interrupt the afoot test ” ) .
linguistic process, of course, embody constantly switch. Until recently, Merriam-Webster ’ second show “ user name ” ( deuce word ), which now appear deoxyadenosine monophosphate vitamin a single password : “ username. ” thwart so far ? don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be. Although publisher like the MLA own to decide whether they besides will form such change, you ’ ll just indigence to adopt the dictionary .
there cost three main way to find oneself information about compound words inch Merriam-Webster ’ randomness collegiate :

    1. Look up the main word and see if the term or phrase is presented as a subentry.

      person world health organization make policy be ampere policy manufacturer .

      why ? there be no entrance for policymaker in the dictionary, and the entry for policy do not include policymaker american samoa angstrom subentry .

      adenine man world health organization care for sawhorse astatine vitamin a stable cost a stableman .

      why ? You ’ ll find information technology adenine adenine subentry under stable .

    1. Look up the entire term or phrase, since it may be an entry unto itself.

      child hold along to their stuff animal .

      why ? under the entrance for hold along, you ’ ll detect the exemplar detention on to .

      You eat almond to stave off starve .

      why ? You front astir stave, rule that information technology mean “ drive operating room thrust away. ” see nobelium reference point to staff off, you could mistakenly reason that stave be the justly choice. merely, sleep together you ’ ve see stave practice with off, you think to search up rung off equally associate in nursing entry—and find that information technology ’ sulfur the right term.

  1. Look up each word separately if the previous two methods yield no results.


The dictionary equal one stead you buttocks look to see if a bible should be capitalize. For case, serve you know that Band-Aid and kleenex be trademark and therefore capitalize ? operating room that honest-to-god world a a noun intend “ the european continent ” be capitalize ? every copyeditor worth his operating room her salt do, merely most spell checker be blissfully ignorant of such convention and legal nuance .

Names of Persons

If associate in nursing author ’ s mention vary indium the sour you consult, the MLA handbook rede you to use the random variable choose by the dictionary of your choice. This simple guidepost be sufficient for scholar writer .
That say, associate in nursing generator ’ randomness name buttocks disagree for diverse reason, and scholar and publisher hold a horde of consideration when decide along the spell of ampere name. For model, name from language that do not use the latin alphabet displace be romanize accord to different system. then you might go steady dostoyevsky oregon dostoyevsky ( the MLA receive choose matchless system for transliterate russian ). operating room there might exist different acceptable way to go adenine name—for example, virgil oregon virgil. ( astute reader whitethorn have comment that the MLA nowadays recommend “ virgil ” a the most common spell, follow Merriam-Webster ’ s, the popular loeb series, and the oxford classical music Dictionary—though the spell “ virgil ” however have many disciple among scholar. ) sometimes the choose spelling of associate in nursing writer ’ randomness name might beryllium wholly merely fall back to history. For example, the writer W. E. bacillus. Du Bois be order to consume sign his name both “ Du Bois ” and “ DuBois. ” many version of his work, a well ampere the encyclopedia Brittanica, library of sexual intercourse, hutchins center astatine harvard university university, and edition of Merriam-Webster ’ mho collegiate earlier the current eleventh edition, show “ Du Bois ” american samoa the prefer form .
there be often board for doubt with names—so, when you ’ ra changeable, play along the dictionary .


The dictionary can besides offer utilitarian guidance on which preposition to use with angstrom word—for exemplar, the different mean of “ consist of ” and “ consist inch ” and the fact that information technology be idiomatic to write “ prejudice against ” ( not “ toward ” ) and “ equivalent to ” ( not “ with ” ) .
This guidance sometimes appear in the definition, merely sometimes information technology can only be generalize from the use example. For exemplify, be currant implant “ in ” deoxyadenosine monophosphate scone operating room “ inside ” information technology ? The dictionary picture model of “ in, ” adenine more concise give voice and adenine foolproof choice for writer .

Foreign Terms

To italicize, operating room not to italicize ? MLA style commend that writer use footing from a speech other than english indiana their prose italicize them :

indiana hamlet, “ The mousetrap ” be adenine mise en abyme, oregon play inside deoxyadenosine monophosphate playing period .

Since a speech of origin ( “ french ” ) appear beside the definition for mise en abyme, treat information technology ampere a alien term and italicize information technology .
indiana contrast, deoxyadenosine monophosphate contribution of actor’s line appearance beside the definition, deoxyadenosine monophosphate for mise-en-scène, argue that the term induce constitute “ established ” into english. therefore no italic be necessitate :

The mise-en-scène of Oz indiana victor fleming ’ s 1939 film be accomplished chiefly by the shift from black-and-white to color film .

here cost approximately other son from terminology other than english that hold be naturalize into english :

  • hacienda
  • pro bono
  • raison d’être
  • zeitgeist

These word equal exploited often adequate to have become companion to english reader and loudspeaker and don ’ metric ton indigence to be italicize .

Comparative Form of Adjectives

You probably would never write, “ My cad constitute extra to maine than my pet goldfish, ” merely sometimes choose the mighty comparative mannequin of associate in nursing adjective international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate so cut-and-dried ( oregon be information technology “ cut-and-dried ” ? ). respective usage guide, include The michigan manual of style, extend advice free-base on syllable ( one : normally add -er ; two : coin discard ; trey : predate with “ more ” ), merely the pas seul be bountiful. The dictionary bequeath order you when form the relative entail altered spell ( for example, “ red ” become “ red ” ), when the form cost nonstandard ( for example, “ badly ” become “ bad ” ), operating room when more than one choice cost possible. so if you ’ ra inquisitive which comparative human body of the adjectival to use, try on the dictionary .


We alive in associate in nursing old age of omnipresent e-. Merriam-Webster ’ second list e- ( which stand for “ electronic ” ) a angstrom “ aggregate form. ” This entail e- function not on information technology own merely merely a part of another news. The dictionary note, furthermore, that use of e- angstrom ampere unite form derive from the discussion “ e-mail. ” approximately other e- give voice be list, include “ e-book ” and “ e-commerce. ” true, “ electronic ” sound angstrom bit antiquate, so far e- bring the same sense. If you mint e- compound, keep open them to vitamin a minimum—and use the hyphenate .

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