Why Open with a Dictionary?

Posted by

So often, I see a piece start off with some dictionary definition of the concept or word to be discussed.


It’s a crutch:
– Avoid coming up with an original  introduction,
– Vaguely establish credibility and/or authority, and/or
– Make sure an article has at least one respectable citation.

The problem: it’s SO boring, so clichéd, so obvious and expected, and it usually tells readers something they already know. Who feels drawn in by such a dull crutch? Not a great lead!

I often move on when I see such. Like many of us, I do lots of scanning, and if my initial impression is weak, game over, on to the next item. I can look things up in a Dictionary myself. That first line us the most important in the whole piece, as often enough it decides whether I’ll ever see the rest.

It pays to try harder. If you want to write, WRITE! Right?

Even if you fail, fall on your face, and often – don’t all of us who try? – you’re far better off leading with your own voice, not some dry recitation from some source. Effort builds growth, risks pay off in time, and every once in a while, you just might hit a home run. Wow! What a moment. Exists in no dictionary…

You can’t do it from the bench. And dictionary definition intros, to me at least, sounds like idle chatter from the bench. Not from the batter’s box, where  all eyes watch you – ALL! – as you take each swing…

That’s writing for yourself,  introducing YOUR ideas on YOUR terms with YOUR words. That’s aiming for a home run with every swing.

That’s where the action lies. The rewards. The magic. Nothing dull there.

Yes? No?

I say yes, no doubt, no regrets.

My source? For better or worse, me. Why not? If I don’t trust “me”, who else should? Why write if your ideas don’t count for something?  We can doubt – everyone does, I certainly do and often – but not try? No, I reject that plan. Take swing after swing!

How about you?

Let me know. Your ideas matter.

Take a chance. Aim for the bleachers!
Live a little. Speak! Live.
What else is life for,  but to live?


  1. Omg my lecturers do this all the time! And the thing is it’s not even restricted to unfamiliar words – a lot of the time it’s used for words that we use everyday! So tedious and definitely uninspiring! Great post 🙂


    1. Academics put so little effort into their presentations, it seems. Too bad, as it must be really dull, embarrassing even, to stand up there and drone on like that. Anyway, I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for taking the time to tell me so! – Greg

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I tend to include dictionary definitions especially when words are unfamiliar or misused. It’s shocking how many people don’t know the definitions of words they say regularly. One that drives me insane is when people use “literally” when they obviously mean “figuratively.” Oy! I try not to open with a definition, but sometimes I prefer it in the intro. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love seeing and using a dictionary definition within the body of an essay, blog, etc., because it broadens the scope of what is written beyond what is commonly thought. I don’t think it is cheating at all. I don’t like seeing it at the very beginning of the article, because then I do think it’s cheating lol. A person who can come up with a first paragraph and hold my interest is doing a great thing!


  4. Perhaps the chance comes from the interpretation that follows. I would not imagine that one should use the device often; however, sometimes it is the core of some meaningful revelation.


    1. “Sometimes,” anoother peeve of mine. Sometimes, anything works well. I focus on usually, as I prefer to play the odds. I’m certainoly open to any ideas when it comes to writing, as I’m no genius, and learning as I go.
      So thanks for helping me out! – Greg


I love your comments! Please, take a moment & share.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s