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As historian Herbert Morton explained, "Webster's Second was more than respected.

It was accepted as the ultimate authority on meaning and usage and its preeminence was virtually unchallenged in the United States.

Prior to Webster's Third the Unabridged had been expanded with each new edition, with minimal deletion.

To make room for 100,000 new words, Gove now made sweeping deletions, dropping 250,000 entries.

Gove justified the change by the company's publication of Webster's Biographical Dictionary in 1943 and Webster's Geographical Dictionary in 1949, and the fact that the topics removed could be found in encyclopedias.

All this was considered necessary because of the large amount of new material, and Webster's Second had almost reached the limits of mechanical bookbinding.Although it was an unprecedented masterwork of scholarship, it was met with considerable criticism for its descriptive (rather than prescriptive) approach.