As Sarah O’Keefe said just before Erin McKean‘s keynote at the STC Summit in Dallas today, here’s a woman who got Venture Capital for a word-related business. That’s so unique, you’ve got to be interested in what she has to say! Erin was an excellent speaker – she related her opener to the recent news that “Technical Writer” is now its own separate writer job in the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Erin’s title is “Dictionary Editor” and she admitted it’s not in a standard category. More like an extended intensive hobby. She’ll be just fine, though, folks.
Her message that dictionaries do not need to be merely a collection of abstracts resonated with this audience – 700 attendees at the Society for Technical Communication annual conference, the STC Summit. We found her talk entertaining, informative, and insightful. And if I were a sixth grader with a thesaurus, I’d layer in even more adjectives!
My takeaways from her talk are summarized here:
- Dictionaries are tools, not books (even though the dictionary definition of a dictionary says it’s a reference book!)
- People make words. Journalists have to write definitions for invented words daily. Case in point – geeksta.
- True authority is a matter of confidence – in the match with an audience, in the author, or in the context the authoritarian brings to the conversation.
- Finally, and I knew this already from trying out Wordnik, conversation about words is a wonderful thing.
Try wordnik.com to see how users of a tool can make the tool more and more useful.