The dictionary is organised alphabetically, according to the first letter of each headword. A few remarks need to be made regarding the alphabet and the writing system, also called the “orthography”.
There are 26 letters or graphemes in the Samburu alphabet, as used for practical writing:
<a, b, ch, d, e, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ng’, ny, o, p, r, rr, s, t, u, w, wu, y, yi>
A few letters or graphemes need a comment:
The reader should notice that the Samburu orthography underrepresents four vowel phonemes. Spoken Samburu has nine contrastive vowels, divided into what are called [+ATR] and [-ATR] sets, with <a> being neutral between the sets. Aside from <a>, the [-ATR] vowels share graphemes with their [+ATR] counterparts, such that <e> represents both [e] and [ɛ], <i> represents both [i] and [ɪ], <o> represents both [o] and [ɔ] and <u> represents both [u] and [ʊ]. The [ATR] value of a vowel is given in the phonetic script.
An exception to this spelling convention is found in words ending with [aɪ]. Such words are spelled <ae>, as in <ntae>, which phonetically is [ntáɪ́]. Also, words ending in [aɛ] are spelled with <ae>, as in <mbae>, which phonetically is [mbá̩ɛ̩].
The Samburu orthography also contains two tone marks, the colon (:) and the slash (/), which sometimes can be seen in the example sentences in the dictionary. The colon marks nominative tone and is used on subjects (nouns or pronouns and modifiers), while the slash marks perfective aspect (roughly like “past tense”) and is used on verbs.
The tone marks are used with a few exceptions. The rules for omission of the colon tone mark are the following (in the examples here, the subject is written in bold face):
Kore kuna ng’uesi, neata larikoni lenche oji Lng’atuny.
So, these animals, they had a leader who was called Lion.
Neichir Sidai oleng.
Ostrich cried very much.
Ira iyie layieni lai lacham.
You are my beloved son.
Nelau Lng’atuny ndaa tee mperot kumo.
Lion lacked food for many days.
The slash is omitted in three types of verbs or environments (in the examples here, the verbs are written with bold face):
I opened the gate.
Keichiunyie apa lkumo.
He had healed many.
Kore ng’ole, naa kachomo Wuampa, najing lduka le Monika.
Yesterday I went to Wamba and entered Monika’s shop.
Other tonal contrasts are not marked in the practical spelling (i.e. orthography). In this dictionary, tone is marked in square brackets in the phonetic information for individual words. In the phonetic script, the syllable marker (e.g. [a̩a̩]) shows extra length wherever there is a bimoraic (or trimoraic) vowel cluster. Absence of syllable/mora marker under an orthographic vowel cluster means that the cluster is short (i.e. monomoraic). Hence the vowel cluster in [mbá̩ɛ̩] is phonetically longer than the vowel cluster in e.g. [ntáɪ́].
 For clarity in this introduction, angled brackets < > surround practical Samburu, English, and Swahili spelling or graphemic forms. Square brackets [ ] surround Samburu phonetic forms represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet.
 The small marks under the vowels are explained below.