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Know it, speak it, write it, quote it… correctly

How did you do in your last exam? If you found it a challenge, spare a thought for the ICAEW students of yesteryear who had to prove their knowledge of Latin, Euclid and the poetry of Chaucer.

There were plenty of candidates who didn't make it past the preliminary. In his history of ICAEW, Sir Harold Howitt recalled a paper from the English exams during the First World War:

Q: Define abrasion and use it in a sentence.

A: The abrasion appeared before him as he walked up the passage but disappeared when he threw something at it.

The general knowledge answer papers are a fount of new definitions, including ‘trade cycle: a type of bicycle generally used by errand boys’ and ‘enigma: a serum inserted to relieve pain’. Perhaps they provided some relief to a weary marker.

Had the candidates been lucky enough to have today's Library & Information Service these errors could have been avoided. A glance at the stacks will show you seven whole shelves full of dictionaries and directories, from the Financial Lexicon to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (where you'd find ‘On the account: an old phrase for sailing on a piratical expedition’).

Though the internet abounds in free reference works, there are times in business when Google just won't do. And if you already know your hedge funds from your haircuts, how about your Hedgegeschäft? The Library holds business dictionaries in German, French, Mandarin, Russian, and even auditor-speak.

It may be that you're using all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order (a condition known as Morecambe Syndrome). So whether you need to charm an audience, influence your boss or just put a technical point in plain language, the Library can find you a manual for the purpose. Check out our catalogue and let us know what you'd like to read. Pick up a few tips and the next generation of executives could be quoting you ­‑ but for all the right reasons.

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