dict user survey

Frank Abate fabate at BLR.COM
Wed Aug 9 18:54:48 UTC 2000

Joe Pickett said:


I'm all for finding out more about how people use dictionaries and the
difficulties they have, and I'm all for making dictionaries as user-friendly as
we can.

But I am skeptical of Frank's notion of basing a dictionary on how most users
use the dictionary most of the time.


I would be skeptical too, Joe.  I don't mean that we should BASE a dict--style, scope, format, etc.--on what a survey says, but merely that a sound survey would allow us to set priorities better, without relying solely on intuition and tradition.  If we find that most users don't use the prons because they can't interpret them, then it behooves the dict editors to change the pron style.  On the other hand, we may learn that they in fact use them all the time, and largely without trouble (which I very much doubt, but let the survey guide us).

Also, a survey may inform us on the ways to order or present other elements of entries.  People (but what percentage?) seem to like word histories, but what percentage can interpret the very abbreviated style of etymologies seen in several dicts?  Perhaps the algebraic-looking, abbreviation-laden etyms are a waste for most users?  Who really knows?

I'd like to know what the "typical" user prefers, based on solid numbers.  Different editors and publishers could interpret and implement policies based on that data any way they choose.

Frank Abate

Dictionary & Reference Specialists (DRS)
Consulting & Lexicographic Services
phone: (860) 510-0100, ext 2311
email:   abatefr at earthlink.net

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