When you’re not sure how a word should be spelled, it’s tempting to just do a Google search and go with the first result that shows up. However, there are a couple of great free resources that are much more reliable.
The Oxford Dictionary is a well-established institution that offers a free online search engine. You can choose between British English and American English (which sometimes influences the spelling and/or meaning of a word). The website provides the right pronunciation, example sentences, expressions containing the word you looked for, etc. You can also use it as a grammar resource: the website contains several FAQs and grammar essays that can be really enlightening.
This dictionary is pretty similar to the Oxford Dictionary and provides the same type of information. It can be useful when you want to double-check information you found in the Oxford Dictionary or elsewhere.
This is an American institution, so it usually only provides the US spelling and meaning of words. It’s a very reliable source that includes example sentences, synonyms, and the right pronunciation. Merriam-Webster also offers several other services: videos by the editors, grammar essays, quizzes, etc.
Grammarly is not a dictionary, but a plug-in for your browser. It checks what you write (in emails, on social media, etc.) and highlights spelling/grammar issues, so you can correct them before sending a message or post a blog. It can be very useful when you don’t have time to check individual words or sentence structures, but still like to be certain you didn’t write an embarrassing typo in an email to a potential client.
Wikipedia does not only offer the famous encyclopedia, but also a multilingual dictionary. This can come in handy when you want to verify a translation. It offers many extras, like a thesaurus and phrase books. Nevertheless, you should bear in mind it works in the same way as the encyclopedia: everyone can upload and edit the content. In other words, it is not as reliable as the established institutions, such as the Oxford, Cambridge and Merriam-Webster dictionaries.
There are plenty of ways to figure out the right spelling of a word. The 5 resources discussed in this post should help you steer clear from dubious sources and faulty answers. After all, the correct spelling can make or break a text – depending on the context, of course. Your mom will probably still love you if you text her you’ll come over for “diner”, but a potential customer might not be impressed when you mention your “profesional service”.