The Oxford-Duden Pictorial English Dictionary (Second Edition, Oxford University Press)

This week’s recommendation is obviously not a book for reading, but it is a book every writer should have. The Oxford-Duden Pictorial English Dictionary is an essential reference that is indispensable for writers, a guide to the exact names of things when “thingy,” won’t do. So for those writers who have yet to put together a Christmas list, this is definitely an item to include.

The names of things often separate a vivid piece of writing from an ordinary one, but one might be in the midst of a description, and have no idea what the name is for the object being described. What’s that ledge in front of fireplace called? (A hearth—the interior is the firebox) Or that covered porch over a driveway? (A porte-cochere). When you know what something looks like and what it does, but not the specific term, you need a pictorial dictionary.

OEPEDOrganized much the same way a thesaurus is, by categories (such as Jewelry, or Construction Site), the ODPED features visual diagrams, with identifying numbers that correspond to definitions.

I first learned about this resource from author Robert Olen Butler, who in his 2007 book on craft, From Where You Dream (read a review here), cited a pictorial dictionary as one of a writer’s essential reference books.

As the publisher details:

Over 1500 new items of vocabulary have been added relating to such diverse fields as photography, typesetting, personal computers, telecommunications and transport. The objects are organized thematically enabling the user to grasp the entire vocabulary relevant to a given situation or context.

This latest edition was published in 1995, so obviously not all fields will be current. Still, much of what is likely to need naming hasn’t changed all that much, so most of what is here will be very useful. Since the edition is out of print, finding a copy can be tricky, and asyet owned copies can be pricey, but used versions abound online.

—Lauren Alwan

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