After using quotations to identify the meanings of words, we then present a selection of them in the Dictionary text itself to illustrate the meaning of a word. We do this not only to provide the evidence for our definitions but also because such illustrations can communicate far more about the usage of a word in a short space than we could hope to describe explicitly in the definitions. For instance they can show the types of texts and linguistic contexts in which the word was used, including the kinds of other words it usually accompanies (e.g. the types of subject or object that a verb has, what kinds of thing an adjective describes, etc.).
We try to make our choice of quotations for each sense representative, drawn from a variety of text types and genres — if we have a choice, that is. We aim to cover the whole of our period, starting with the earliest example for the use of a word we can find, especially for words or senses that are new to the language in our period. We also seek to reflect as wide a geographical range as possible. However, if we our research suggests a word is restricted in its usage, whether linguistically, chronologically, geographically, or in any other way we will try to ensure that this too is illustrated by the selection of quotations used.
The space restrictions of publishing in print mean that we have to be selective rather than comprehensive in our use of quotations: we don't ordinarily give more than six quotations per (sub)sense to illustrate the meaning, and so we are careful to choose the examples that will be most helpful to the dictionary's users (e.g. typically avoiding ambiguous examples, unless they happen to be essential for some reason). Moreover, within the chosen quotations we normally quote only the most illustrative and representative words, marking any omissions with two dots (..); this two-dot mark of abbreviation itself was adopted to save space (compared with the three-dot mark more commonly found in other publications).
In one particular respect, however, we do try to be comprehensive in our use of quotations, and this is with regard to spellings. Within an overall entry we provide quotation evidence of all the spellings of a word that we have identified in the course of our research. This is particularly important because of the tremendous diversity in medieval spelling.