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Editors’ tips for writers
by Corina Koch MacLeod
I like lists—especially word lists. They help me to make sense of the world. Below is a round-up of useful word lists for writers. Use them to check for and address potential problems in your writing.
We all do it—use words that clutter up our writing. If you know what those words are, you can hunt them down and obliterate them.
10 Words to Cut From Your Writing at Entrepreneur
Needless Words at Tech Tools for Writers. This word list is nicely packaged in a macro that you run in Microsoft Word.* Talk about a timesaver.
*See this 30-second video for how to add a macro to Word.
There are parts of the writing craft that many writers struggle with at some point in their writing journey—telling too much instead of showing, for example. Some clever word wranglers have taken the time to create word lists that can help you to attend to common writer missteps:
TellingWords at Tech Tools for Writers—identifies words that may indicate instances of telling
-ly Words at Tech Tools for Writers—highlights adverbs often used in dialogue, which may indicate that you’re telling instead of showing. Often, he said and she said will suffice.
If you’re writing historical fiction, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with vocabulary from the time period in which you’re writing. These word lists will take you back in time.
100 Words that Define the First World War at the Oxford English Dictionary
Flapper Speak: Dictionary of Words from the 1920s and 1930s, by Margaret Chai Maloney
Glossary of 80s Terms at In the 80s
Some genres of writing have their own vocabularies. Learn the words genre readers will expect to read.
A Glossary of Science Fiction Jargon, by Eric S. Raymond
Sensual Words for Romance Writers, by Annette Blair
Gangster Glossary at Night of Mystery
Hard Boiled Slang Dictionary at Classic Crime Fiction
English Dialect Word Lists
For tips on writing with dialects, refer to How to Write Authentic Dialects, by Arlene Prunkl. These word lists will take you the rest of the way, eh!
A List of Quaint Southernisms at Alpha Dictionary
Glossary of English and British Words at Project Britain
Glossary of Canadian English at Wikipedia.org
Words from Other Languages
If you’re writing a book set in a another place, or if a character’s cultural background is of importance to the story, seasoning your story with the occasional foreign word or phrase is de rigeur.
French Phrases Used in English at the Phrase Finder German Loan Words in English at About.com
Russian Words Used in English at Daily Writing Tips
Spanish Words Become Our Own at About.com
The Yiddish Handbook: 40 Words You Should Know at Daily Writing Tips
It’s easy to confuse words that look or sound similar, or that mean something other than what you think they mean. These lists will help you to sort out some of the more common confusables.
Misused Words by Daily Writing Tips
Commonly Confused Words by Oxford Dictionaries
10 Words that Don’t Mean What You Think They Do at Daily Writing Tips
Your word processor’s spell check can catch most of your misspellings, but not all of them. Here are some words that sneak through spell check or trip up writers.
Words Often Misspelled Because of Double Letters
There are many more lists that I can add to this round-up. If you have a favourite word list, tell us about it in the comments below.