25 Word Lists 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.

Needless Words

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.

Craft Words

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.

Historical Words

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

Genre Words

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

Confusable Words

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

Misspelled Words

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.

Common Misspellings

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.

Image by Brian

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How to Get Helpful Feedback From Beta Readers


by Carla Douglas

Sending a finished manuscript out to beta readers has become a routine step in the self-publishing process. 
Beta readers can provide crucial feedback about whether your book is ready to go public, and authors know this.
It’s one thing to get readers to agree to give your manuscript an assessment; it’s another thing entirely to make the most of the precious time a beta reader spends with your material.
So, you’ve found one or more avid readers to take on the task of giving your book a first read. What next?
Read on: below I discuss how to get information you can act on from your beta readers.

How to Ask for Feedback

You’re asking your beta readers for feedback. But what does that mean? Be specific. At the very least, include a checklist so that your readers are paying attention to the kinds of things that concern you most.


For fiction manuscripts, focus on the aspects of your book that you are least confident about.
For example, if you’ve struggled with dialogue in your novel, include a question or two about it, such as, Is it always clear who is speaking during passages of dialogue? or Does dialogue successfully advance the plot and/or help to develop character?
Encourage beta readers to write their observations and comments either in the checklist file or annotate your file.


For nonfiction manuscripts, your focus will be somewhat different. People read nonfiction for information and understanding—guide your beta readers with questions about the clarity of your content and how it’s presented. You might also ask about how the book as a whole is organized.
In nonfiction, the tone of your writing is more important than you might think. The wrong tone can put a reader off early in a book—don’t be afraid to ask your beta readers about this. If you have a subject-matter expert who’s agreed to read for you, then customizing a checklist/feedback form specifically for that person is a good idea.
So, what would such a checklist look like? Below is the checklist that was sent to beta readers for Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

For both fiction and nonfiction, let your beta readers know that they needn’t pay too much attention to things like typos and formatting. You’ll cover these items later when your book is copyedited.
Your beta readers are doing you a huge favour. Giving them a checklist to guide their feedback will help them help you.
Image by goXunuReviews

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Scrivener Cheat Sheet: Start Using Scrivener Now


by Corina Koch MacLeod

Scrivener is a wonderful tool for the drafting and revising stages of a book. It allows you to move chunks of text around with ease, organize everything, including research notes, in the same project file, and convert your book to ebook, web, and print formats.
When you first open the program, though, it can seem a little confusing. It doesn’t operate quite like the word processor you might be familiar with — mostly because things aren’t where you’d expect them to be. Don’t despair. Scrivener is a powerful tool with many features you’ll learn to locate and come to appreciate.
With a cheat sheet, though, you can begin using Scrivener right now. 
Open Scrivener, Select “New Project,” choose a template (the Blank template is least confusing) and click on the Green Plus icon at the top. This will create a new “file.” Park your cursor in the “Editor” pane in the middle and begin writing.
Begin typing in the middle panel

Downloadable Cheat Sheet

If there’s something you’d like to do, but you don’t know where to find the command, consult this downloadable cheat sheet at the Tech Tools for Writers site. 
* This list favours Scrivener for Windows, but I’ve included some Mac features, too.
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At a Glance: Ebook Formatting for Lulu


by Corina Koch MacLeod

There are lots of ways to publish an ebook, and some methods require more technical knowledge than others. Distributors like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu are trying to make the process as simple as possible by allowing authors to upload ebooks using the word processing software they are already using (often, Microsoft Word). That makes good sense to me.

Each distributor has its own guidelines for uploading an ebook, and they often provide self-publishing authors with some sort of formatting guide. To ensure a smooth conversion from manuscript to ebook, it’s important to follow your distributor’s formatting guide to the letter:

Formatting for Kindle
Smashwords Style Guide, by Mark Coker
Lulu Ebook Creator Guide

Often, these formatting guides can be lengthy and fairly involved, requiring you to “read a book to format a book” (Kawasaki & Welch). Sometimes, as is the case with Lulu, the information changes quickly and the downloadable guide’s instructions are different from the advice given on the website. Digging through these details can be a bit like playing hide and seek.

This week, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for formatting your Word document for Lulu. If there is anything on this cheat sheet that doesn’t make sense to you, read the Lulu Ebook Creator Guide to get your bearings. You can then use the cheat sheet below as a checklist, or memory tool, when it comes time to format your ebook file.

Lulu Cheat Sheet


  • Lulu allows you to upload a Microsoft Word doc file, and most recently, a docx file. There are reasons why you might want to upload a docx file instead a doc file.

Document Clean-Up

  • Be sure that you’ve removed any typewriter formatting from your Word document before you begin to format it. Extra spaces between words and paragraphs, as well as “illegal” fonts lurking invisibly in the background, can cause the Lulu converter to reject your manuscript.

  • Don’t include page breaks, headers, footers, page numbers, columns, or audio or video files.

Table of Contents

  • If you have an internally hyperlinked table of contents (TOC) in your Word file, remove it. Lulu will create an external TOC for you.
  • Use Word Styles to style headings. Lulu’s conversion software uses styled headings to create an external TOC, or NCX, that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Tip: to see if you’ve used Word Styles to style your headings, open your Word document and then open the navigation pane (Ctrl + F in Word 2010). Click on the Outline tab on the left. If you’ve styled your headings using Word styles, the headings will be listed in the navigation pane. You can click on these headings to navigate your document.
Navigation pane in Word 2010


  • Lulu is sticky about heading levels. The Guide says you can only use three levels of headings, though I managed four levels without dire consequences. Heading 4s didn’t show up in the TOC/NCX, but that’s okay. 
  • Book sectionsTitle Page, Copyright, Preface, Epiloguemust be Heading 1s. Be sure to include a separate Copyright page.
  • Chapter headings must be Heading 2s.
  • Subsections/subchapters must be Heading 3s. 
  • You must begin your ebook with a Heading 1. No exceptions.
  • Headings must appear in order. For example, don’t have an H3 follow an H1. An H3 must follow an H2.


  • Use Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial fonts.
  • Avoid using special characters that don’t appear on your keyboard.
  • Apply boldface and italics using the buttons on the ribbon.


  • Set paragraph styles to Normal in Word Styles.
  • Set first-line indents and spacing after paragraphs using Word Styles.
  • Left-justify your paragraphs.
  • Avoid using too many paragraph returns: they’ll get stripped out in the conversion process.


  • Style bulleted and numbered lists using direct formatting from the ribbon.
  • Avoid using square bullets; use round bullets instead.


  • To create an off-book hyperlink, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Address and type in the URL. Don’t link to other online bookstores.
  • For within-book hyperlinks, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Place in this document.


  • Save images as a JPG, GIF or PNG, with a resolution of 96150 DPI. 
  • Make sure they’re in RGB (red, blue, green) format.
  • Images should be less than 500 x 500 pixels.
  • Insert images inline and centre them.
  • An image’s size must be less than 250 KB.

Diagrams and Tables

  • Save as images and insert them inline.


  • The Lulu converter produces epub files, and epubs support footnotes and endnotes. Go to Insert > Footnote.


Lulu has strict rules about advertising in your ebook (don’t do it). You must also fill out the metadata for your book in a very specific way. This isn’t a suggestion. Lulu will only convert your ebook if you attend to the details in each if their requirements.

Each distributor’s conversion software has its quirks. Their formatting guides are designed to help you to prepare a Word document that works with their conversion software. If your file doesn’t convert the first time, don’t give up! Go back to the formatting guide to see if you missed anything. Check support forums, like Lulu’s Knowledge Base. It often takes a few tries to get it right.

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