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The OSPD is no ordinary dictionary. There are capsule definitions given but no usage tips. All the entries are in caps. Since there are no proper names allowed, this doesn't matter. The most important information about the entries (from the point of view of the Scrabble player) is how they are spelled, how they are made plural, how the gerund and past tenses are formed, and whether you can make comparatives or superlatives out of the word and how.
For example the plural of "bijou" (a jewel) is either "bijoux" or "bijous," and the OSPD gives that info. The gerund of "snib" (to latch) is "snibbing" while the comparative of "sleazy" is "sleazier" and the superlative, "sleaziest." There is also the adverb, "sleazily."
The -er form of a word is listed separately. If you don't find it, it's not a word!--or at least that should be our agreement. For example "renown" is a noun and a verb but there is no "renowner"--"someone who makes renown" since the verb is intransitive, but there is a "tearer"--"one who tears." (There's also a "terror," but never mind.)
By the way, words beginning with the prefix "re" as in, e.g., "reword" are listed separately from words that begin with the "re" that is not a prefix. Again, "renown" is not listed after "rename" but follows "renovate" a few pages later.
The other peculiarities of the entries are explained in the Introduction, which I highly recommend you read. (Be sure your informed opponent has read it!) There it is explained why "You should look always look at several entries above and below the expected place..." when searching for the word in question. You should also read the brief Preface in which the editors explain why some offensive (especially four-letter) words do not appear. Note too that words longer than eight letters (and indeed one-letter words) do not appear (except for some inflected forms) because they are seldom if ever used in a Scrabble game. Of course most veteran players have on occasion played a very nice nine-letter, double triple-word, 50-point bonus word. I did myself once. I wish I could remember what it was.
For casual players, who typically use a collegiate dictionary to settle spelling disputes, the contents of this little green book will come as something of a shock. You mean "zax" is a word? How about "zek"? Can you believe "jefe"? This is just to name three off hand that are not in the Random House college dictionary I have in front of me.
There are in fact in the OSPD seven words beginning with a "q" not followed by a "u" (qaid, qanat, qat, qindar, qintar, qiviut, and qoph--in case you're in the middle of a game). Don't laugh. In some households there is a Scrabble game going on at all times just as in some other households the TV is always on. Random House's college dictionary doesn't give "qaid" or "qanat" but surprisingly has "qadi" which is not given by the OSPD.
I think Scrabble has influenced dictionary compilers because if you look at the Merriam-Webster (the same company that produces the OSPD) Ninth Collegiate (copyright 1985) you will find only qintar, qiviut and qoph. But even more tellingly if you look at Merriam-Webster's Second International Unabridged Dictionary (I have the edition of 1950), the Grand Dame of American dictionaries, you will find that there are no words beginning with a "q" not followed by a "u": no "qat," no "qintar," no "qoph," etc.
With so much variation between dictionaries, the good folks at Merriam-Webster saw a need and filled it. Most people I know play "house rules" and rely on the dictionary(ies) that happen to be in residence. My recommendation is that you buy two of these green books, one in paperback to take with you when you take your Scrabble game on the road, and another in hardback to have at home. Of course if you haven't used this book before it will take some getting used to. But buy a Scrabble software program and practice with this book at hand, and after some time you will find that, with all those extra words to play with, you can really rack up the points!
One other thing to realize is that some of the spellings and even some of the words in the OSPD are really not standard anymore and should not be considered part of the so-called "Standard English" that we all read and (usually) speak. This fact does not detract from the utility of the OSPD for Scrabble players; however, as other reviewers have pointed out, when writing a term paper use a "real" dictionary.
In short, it is not the plentiful number of Scrabble-type words that appear in this dictionary that makes it so valuable--although that is certainly one of its best features. It is rather the definitive way the OSPD demonstrates exactly how different forms of words are spelled, something not always done in your average dictionary.
The OSPD is most valuable because it settles spelling disputes in a quick and unambiguous manner, and that alone is reason enough to buy this book.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "How to Win at Hearts on Your Computer"