Overview: Dictionary and thesaurus software

For some people, it can often be hard to find the right words to use when writing a document or filling in a web form. There are a number of ways to help with this, with dictionary and thesaurus software widely available as either computer programmes or built in to websites. There is also specialist software for people who have difficulty with words that sound the same but have different meanings.

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Overview of dictionary and thesaurus software

The spelling and grammar checker in word-processing applications such as Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org Writer can help you produce fewer errors in your text, and can help you find the exact word you are looking for. A standard spell-checker, however, will only tell you if the word you have written is spelt correctly; it will not tell you the meaning of the word, or how it can be used in context.

Similarly, a thesaurus (which gives words that have a similar meaning) is often only really helpful if you are given the meanings and context of the alternative words you are offered.

Many well-known dictionaries are available in software form, and can be excellent resources when you're using a computer to write. However, they do not all have the ability to have words and their definitions spoken back to you.

There are also numerous dictionaries and thesauruses available to use online, many of which have audio recordings of the words (but rarely of the definitions). Be aware that some of these only have US spellings, with the audio pronounced in an American accent.

Help with words that sound the same

People often rely on a spell-checker to assist them with errors, however a spell-checker will only pick up on words that are spelt incorrectly and not words that are used incorrectly. This is often the case with homophones, which are words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example 'there', 'their' and 'they're'.

Various software programmes are available that can identify the homophones in your text and give you a definition of each one. You can then click on the desired option and that word will be updated in your document. Unlike some of the simpler applications, programmes such as TextHelp Read&Write (for information, see the TextHelp Systems website) also enable you to have the homophone definitions, as well as other text such as the text in your document, to be read using speech output.

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Back to How to guides - I find words difficult

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