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University of Illinois linguist Dennis Baron is a regular Visual Thesaurus contributor, and we have been proud to feature selected pieces he has written for his site, The Web of Language. Today WOL celebrates its fifth anniversary, and Dennis has commemorated the occasion by looking back on some of his most notable posts.  Continue reading...
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There's a new online threat to writing. Critics of the web like to blame email, texts, and chat for killing prose. Even blogs don't escape their wrath. But in fact the opposite is true: thanks to computers, writing is thriving. More people are writing more than ever, and this new wave of everyone's-an-author bodes well for the future of writing, even if not all that makes its way online is interesting or high in quality.  Continue reading...
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The Supreme Court is using dictionaries to interpret the Constitution. Both conservative justices, who believe the Constitution means today exactly what the Framers meant in the 18th century, and liberal ones, who see the Constitution as a living, breathing document changing with the times, are turning to dictionaries more than ever to interpret our laws.  Continue reading...
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A new rant in Salon by Kim Brooks complains, "My college students don't understand commas, far less how to write an essay," and asks the perennial question, "Is it time to rethink how we teach?"

While it's always time to rethink how we teach, teaching commas won't help.  Continue reading...
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The OED has put ♥ into the dictionary, along with such internet terms as OMG. At least that's what the headlines are screaming, and commentators world-wide have been praising or damning the dictionary editors' decision to go both graphic and digital.  Continue reading...
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The Internet may be the new newspaper, but it's also become the new dictionary, and the two are inextricably linked: when news breaks, people rush online to find out what it means, and whether it's a noun or a verb.  Continue reading...
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There's a federal law that defines writing. Because the meaning of the words in our laws isn't always clear, the very first of our federal laws, the Dictionary Act--the name for Title 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, of the U.S. Code--defines what some of the words in the rest of the Code mean, both to guide legal interpretation and to eliminate the need to explain those words each time they appear. Writing is one of the words it defines, but the definition needs an upgrade.  Continue reading...
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