Anyone looking for an English dictionary is currently faced with almost an excess of choice, since 2001 has seen the publication of new editions of three major works; the Collins Concise Dictionary, the Concise Oxford Dictionary and the Encarta Concise Dictionary. All cover the same core material and at first sight seem much the same. All give definitions that place the most common sense first, guidance on such things as how formal or informal a word is, and information on the origin of a word and when it first came into the language. However, a closer look shows that they all have different strengths and offer different plus points for the user.
The Collins Concise has a strong encyclopaedic element. Alongside vocabulary words it has numerous entries on people and places. The latter are particularly good, ranging from modest towns to entries on whole countries, which give information on population, languages, currency, religion, capital city and geography. It also has excellent usage notes , giving, for example, clear guidance on the different uses of "emotional" and "emotive", or pointing out that "abrogate" and "arrogate" are often confused, although their meanings are opposite. As a Scottish publisher, Collins also has the best coverage of Scots words. The design and layout of the text makes this the easiest of the three dictionaries to read, and if you want to buy just one reference book to sit on an office or student desk, this is probably the best book to buy. --Julia Cresswell