I’ve been exposed to new words, definitions, and literary texts

by Shannon Bristol

Shannon Bristol, an English major at the University of Central Florida, wrote this reflection for an internship during the Fall 2021 semester.

Putting Johnson’s Dictionary online as an archive is important. Johnson’s dictionary had a wide reach throughout all English speaking countries, including America. It predates the (now more common in usage in America) Webster’s Dictionary, which was actually influenced by Johnson’s dictionary in many ways. As for its influence in Britain, it was said by Henry Hitchings that “The influence of the Dictionary was sweeping. Johnson established both a methodology for how dictionaries should be put together and a paradigm for how entries should be presented. Anyone who sought to create a dictionary, post-Johnson, did so in his shadow” (Defining the World).

The historical significance of the Dictionary is marked, and therefore remains important to be preserved. This is important in the minds of scholars, historians, students of literature, and anyone who is interested in how time has effected the ways in which we use certain words and phrases. This Dictionary should be able to be accessible by any person who wants to view it and not just those who have the time or money to purchase or rent a hard copy from a library or bookstore. Accessibility of knowledge is incredibly important, especially in this day and age. Making all forms of knowledge widely accessible to the masses is something that I am very passionate about.

My specific role when it comes to this dictionary project is to be a proofreader. Essentially what I do is go back over the definitions that have already been copied into the online database and check for errors. These errors can be punctuation errors, spacing errors, words that differ from the text that was written in the folio, and spelling errors that were not initially in the folio itself. Every week I go over a specific set of words with a fine-toothed comb, checking both the copied definition into the archive and going back to the folio itself to make sure that each matches. When I have finished checking over a word for accuracy and errors, I then initial my name next to it on the spreadsheet that is shared amongst all volunteers and interns. The goal each week is to complete the checking of at least 9 pages of folio, as I am receiving 3 credits for this internship. When I am done with the set of words that I am given, I ask for a new set. I also post a weekly check up every week in the classroom discussion boards where I essentially detail the progress that I have made that week, select a “word of the day” from the selection of words that I proofread that particular week, and talk about any road blocks or things that surprised me throughout the week of proofreading. There is also the opportunity to post memes along with the discussion post, which I greatly enjoy. I love to have fun with the assignments that I do, and I greatly appreciate that our professor not only allows but encourages us to find the humor in what we do.

This leads into exactly why doing something like this matters to and benefits me personally. I am an English major, and I am in the final two semesters of my Bachelor’s degree program. I am also a writer and I am planning on becoming a high school level English teacher. Throughout this project, I have been exposed to many words, definitions, and pieces of literature that I had never heard of before while taking part in proofreading. This includes parts of English that are no longer used widely, and yet are still important to the larger context of our language. As a writer, access to this language, as well as words that I had just never been exposed to before in general, is extremely beneficial for me. It allows me to broaden my vocabulary and use these words in ways that will help me better engage with my audience and readers. I truly feel as though I have a deeper grasp on the English language as a whole through working on this project. My work on this project will also benefit me as a future educator. The fact that I now have a deeper understanding of the English language as a whole will serve to benefit my students through me. I want to be able to expose my future students to as rich of a lexicon of the English language as possible in ways that will hopefully engage their interest in further learning about literature and the English language.

As a proofreader, I have also taken up several freelance proofreading assignments because of my work on this project. I feel like I have a deeper understanding of proofreading and a greater ability and confidence level to add it to my professional repertoire of skills. Every week I feel my confidence with proofreading enhance, and I feel my eye for errors becoming much sharper. It is truly a pleasure to be spending time with such a historically significant folio and helping towards the preservation of history, as a bit of a history nerd myself.