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Glossary of writing terms

myWriterTools comes with an extensive glossary of writing, publishing and editing terms. You access the glossary from the myWriterTools menu and can search the glossary list for any word. The glossary is reproduced below. Click on the letter at the top to go directly to that section.

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Glossary of writing, publishing and editing terms

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X 


upper part of letters (b,d,f,h,I,j,k,l,t) that extends above the x-height



author's alteration that indicates a change made by the author



a short version of a longer word or phrase, such as chap. for chapter


About the Author

information in a book or proposal about the author; normally written in the 3rd person



a brief synopsis of a paper or similar work



symbols over or next to letters that indicate pronunciation or stress; very common with foreign letters such as é



a term made from the first letter of each word in a phrase, such as NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization


active voice

writing where the subject of the sentence is carrying out the action, such as 'He threw the ball.'



a word modifying a noun or pronoun, either before the word, such as 'the brown cow', or after the word, such as 'the cow was brown'



a word modifying a verb, adjective, adverb, phrase or preposition, such as 'he danced horribly.'



sometimes refers to the unused white space on a page


All Rights

a legal term meaning all publication rights worldwide in all formats



a figurative story used to convey moral or ethical lessons



space between columns on a page



a series of words beginning with the same letter or sound, such as: 'Bob bounced both balls badly.'



the & character usually used to mean 'and'



a word or phrase formed by transposing the order of letters in another word or phrase, such as ' dormitory' and 'dirty room'.



comparing similar qualities of two items that are otherwise dissimilar in order to show that the items may be alike in other ways



repetition of a similar phrase at the beginning of successive sentences for dramatic effect--'we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate--we cannot hallow...'



reversal of the normal order of words in a sentence for effect, like Yoda saying 'Judge me by size, do you?'


angle brackets

a name for < and >, also used for the 'less than' and 'greater than' signs



the fictional character or condition opposed to the hero or heroine (protagonist) of a story



word or phrase that is referred to by a pronoun, such as 'Kelsey said she did well on the test.'



a collection of stories or poems assembled in one publication.



word with opposite meaning of another, such as good and evil


AP style

writing guidelines outlined in the Associated Press Stylebook, used mainly for magazines and newspapers


APA style

writing conventions outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, used by psychologists and others



the ( ' ) symbol used to make possessive words and indicate missing letters



small words (a, an, the) that modify nouns


at sign

the @ character, often used in email addresses



a life story written by the subject of the book


auxiliary verb

a verb that goes with another verb, like have or do


back matter

back pages of a book containing appendixes, indexes and endnotes



publisher's list of books published in prior years that are still in print



the ' character.



the imaginary line that characters rest on; descenders extend below this line.


bastard title

optional first page of a book containing only the book title



list of references used or cited in writing the book or article, usually printed in the back of the book



a life story of someone written by someone else


blank verse

unrhymed poetry



extending art or text beyond the edge of the page beyond the trimmed edge


blind folio

page number that does not appear


block quote

a quotation that is set off from the main text (usually indented) and not surrounded by quote marks



final proofs of the book or magazine that offer the last chance to make changes


body type

text type used for the main body of text



standard text that is used in multiple documents with little or no changes, or as a template






the { and } characters



the [ and ] characters.



the circle that surrounds editor's text on a page to highlight the material



a round dot used to mark items in list--also refers to other ornamental symbols used for the same purpose


bulleted list

a vertical list with a bullet at the start of each item



line at the story of news or magazine articles that gives the writer's name



note on a printed copy to indicate where something needs to be added or changed


cap height

height of a capital letter from baseline to letter top



capital letters



text accompanying illustrations or photographs


cardinal number

a simple number used for counting, like 1, 5, or 431 (compare to ordinal number)



the small symbol ^ used to indicate where to place text


CBE style

writing guidelines recommended by the Council of Biology Editors in Scientific Style and Format, mainly for scientific writing



a letter, number, or symbol.


Chicago style

writing guidelines contained in the 'The Chicago Manual of Style', one of the more commonly referenced set of guidelines



a reference to the source of information or quotation



a complete phrase containing both subject and verb that is part of a compound sentence



a overused and trite expression that conveys a popular thought, such as 'kill two birds with one stone'.


close paren

the ) character when used to finish enclosing a phrase



a color process that uses four colors --  Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black)


collective noun

noun used to refer to a group of people or objects--may be singular or plural, such as 'a pod of whales'



the : symbol used to mark a break in a sentence similar to a period


column inch

a newspaper or magazine measurement--one inch of text in one column


column rule

thin line between columns to make them easier to read



the , symbol used to mark separation inside a sentence or between items in a list


comparison read

a process of comparing two copies to ensure they are the same


complex sentence

a sentence containing an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses


compound sentence

a sentence containing two or more clauses separated by the words and, but, or or


compound word

a word formed by combining two words together, with or without a hyphen



a typeface variant where the normal characters are compressed in the horizontal direction only



a word used to join words and clauses together, including 'and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet'



a letter with a hard sound--all letters that are not vowels



a word formed by combining two words and omitting some letters which are replaced with an apostrophe, such as 'don't'.



an editing process that checks for proper grammar, spelling and usage, as well as sometimes checking for style, continuity and accuracy



ensuring that a block of text will fit in the space allocated



legal protection for any works of creation


correlative conjunction

a conjunction pair, such as 'either/or', 'neither/nor' or 'both/and'



an error found after printing which must be corrected on an errata sheet


crop marks

thin marks or crosses placed outside standard text area to allow for pages to be aligned when printing



a reference to another section or page in the same document--also called x-ref


curly quotes

special quotation marks that are slanted towards the quote; also called smart quotes



abbreviation for Curriculum vitae - a resume of one's experience



the character often used for footnotes


dead copy

original manuscript used to compare against a more recent copy


dead copy

a copy of a work that has already been proofread with changes being copied to a new copy



lower part of letters (g,j,p,q,y) that extends below the baseline



a special character, usually found in its own computer font, that is used for embellishment of the text, such as a smiley face or special bullet


direct object

a word or phrase that follows a transitive verb or phrase, such as 'ball' in 'he threw the ball'


display type

larger, bolder type used for headings and subheadings


display type

large type used for titles and headings, usually a sans serif or special font


double dagger

the ‡ character often used for footnotes


double entendre

an expression capable of being interpreted in two ways, one of which is usually sexual


double negative

a phrase normally constructed of a negative verb with another negative word, such as 'I didn't see no one'



a series of three periods in a row (...) used to indicate omitted text or a pause (plural is ellipses)


em dash

a wide dash '—' the width of a capital M


em space

a space the width of a capital M


en dash

a dash the width of a capital N


en space

a space the width of a capital N



an explanatory note at the end of a chapter or book



A phrase used in place of something disagreeable or upsetting (passed on instead of died).



a pleasant word or phrase substituted for a more offensive one, such as 'he passed away' instead of 'he died'


exclamation point

the ! mark normally used at the end of sentences for emphasis or surprise



a typeface variant where the normal characters are stretched in the horizontal direction only



an online or e-mailed newsletter or magazine


fair use

allowed copying of short portions of copyrighted material for educational or review purpose


figure of speech

an expression used to impart a meaning that is not necessarily contained in the expression, such as 'I am dying of thirst'


flush left/right

text set flush to the left or right margin



the page number on a page; a blind folio has no page number but is counted in the page count



a set of characters of one typeface and style (like bold or italic)



the text placed at the bottom of each page, such as the book title



introductory statement in the front of the book written by someone other than the author


front matter

printed material at the start of a book including the title page, table of contents and dedication



page in the front matter facing the title page, usually containing an illustration and often on different stock


full caps

words in all capital letters.



first printed proof of a document



fiction category, such as history or mystery



a form of verb acting as a noun and ending in 'ing', like acting



a present participle of a verb ending in -ing which can be used as a noun or be part of a phrase used as a noun, such as 'I like eating'



a writer paid to write a book for another person; normally not acknowledged as the author



a list of words with definitions


GPO style

writing guidelines recommended by the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual, used for government printing


Greek text

illegible text used as filler when designing layouts



inner margins of facing pages of a book



a poem with three-lines and seventeen syllables


half title

page following the title page that contains just the main title--no subtitle and no author name



a photo or art converted to small dots to allow for clearer printing


hanging indent

text with a flush left first line, and indented following lines


hard copy

a printed version of a document



the chapter or section title



a word of phrase that follows a chapter or section title before the main text


helping verb

a verb that can help change the tense of the main verb, such as 'can, should, have, shall, will'


historical fiction

fiction that is set in the past, normally attempting to recreate the spirit and mood of the era



words spelled the same but pronounced differently or have different meanings



words spelled and pronounced the same but with different meanings


house style

editorial style preferred by specific publisher



extravagant and deliberate exaggeration



a punctuation mark '-' use to make compound words or split words at the end of a line



a phrase peculiar to an area of the country or group of people, or one that can not be understood by analyzing the words, such as 'saved by the bell'



a word used as a command or request, such as 'Shut the door'



a branding name used by a publisher on books they release; one publisher may have multiple imprints


indefinite pronoun

a pronoun that refers to one or more unspecified people, objects or places, such as anything or nobody



space at the beginning of the line


independent clause

a group of words that contains a subject, verb and object (if required) and represents a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence



an alphabetized list of references to the body of the text including the page number, normally found in the back matter of the book


indirect object

an object preceding the direct object that tells to whom or for whom the verb is acting, such as 'me' in the phrase 'he sold me the book'


initial caps

words in which the first letter is capitalized


initial caps

use of a capital letter to start each word



a word added to a sentence to convey a sense of emotion, often followed by an exclamation point, such as 'Wow!'


interrogative pronoun

a pronoun used to ask a question--what, which, who, whom and whose


intransitive verb

a verb that does not need a direct object, such as 'he fainted from the heat'



unique number assigned to each book by the publisher identifying the book for inventory and ordering, usually in a format similar to ISBN 0-221-03232-1. The format has recently been lengthened to a 13-digit number.    



lines that are flush right and left. The word and character spacing must be changed to make both sides flush.



space between adjoining letters that is often adjusted based on the actual pair of letters; such as placing an 'A' and 'V' closer together than their normal character spacing would dictate



a page that is positioned horizontally with the long edge at the top



the space between lines of text, normally measured in points, which can be smaller or larger than the font size (rhymes with bedding)



a caption that explains the contents of a chart or map



space that is added or removed between letters to change the appearance or make words and lines fit on the page



special characters formed by combining two or more letters, such as æ



(see leading)


linking verb

a verb or expression that links a subject with its predicate, such as 'the book might be his'



a letter shown in its smaller format, like 'b', compared to its uppercase form, 'B'


mark up

to place editing marks on a copy of a manuscript



length of a line to typeset, in picas (6/inch)



a phrase comparing two different things without the use of 'like' or 'as' (which would make it a simile), such as 'the winds of change'



the pattern of rhythm in poems


mixed metaphor

a metaphor incorrectly formed with words from two different metaphors, such as 'burn that bridge when you come to it'


MLA style

writing conventions outlined by the Modern Language Association in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, normally used in schools



a word used to further restrict the meaning of another word, such as 'the flashing light'



abbreviation for manuscript



a new word or expression


nonrestrictive clause

a clause not necessary to the meaning of the sentence, usually set off by a comma, such as 'He sold the car, which happened to be blue, to the doctor.'



a short work of fiction


numbered list

a vertical list with numbers in front of each line


Nut Graf

in journalism, one or more paragraphs that contain the news value of the story



the noun, pronoun or phrase that the verb acts upon, such as the word 'ball' in 'he threw the ball'


on acceptance

payment received only when the editor accepts the finished manuscript


on publication

payment received when the document is published


on spec

a submission accepted without an obligation to publish it



use of words whose pronunciation sounds like their meaning, such as hiss or buzz


ordinal number

a number format used to indicate sequence, like 1st or 3rd (compare to cardinal number)



first line of a new paragraph that occurs by itself at the bottom of a page or column--differentiate from 'widow' by remembering the phrase: 'orphans have a future but no past, while widows have a past but no future'



a phrase consisting of words with contradictory meanings, such as 'military intelligence'



a phrase or word that reads the same forwards or backwards, such as 'A man, a plan, a canal: Panama'



a group of one or more sentences that normally comprises a common idea and begins on a new line, normally indented



a verb form that can be used as adjective, usually ending in -ing or -ed, such as 'the rising tide'


parts of speech

verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.


passive voice

a sentence form where the subject is being acted upon (compare to active voice)


passive voice

a phrase where the subject is normally not referenced but instead the focus is on the object of the sentence, such as 'the book was returned'



printer's error made by typesetter or printer



the '.' mark that is used to mark the end of sentences or letters in an abbreviation



attribution of human traits to an object or non-human object



a measure for typesetting; 6 picas to an inch, or 12 points to a pica



to reproduce another's work and claim it as your own without crediting the source



a full page illustration normally printed on a different weight or color of paper



the main story line of a book or story



word forms that indicate more than one, usually formed by adding -s or -es to the end of the word



Abbreviation for print-on-demand



used to measure type size; 72 points to an inch


point of view

the perspective of a story, such as first person



a page that is positioned vertically with the short edge at the top



a noun or pronoun form that is used to show ownership, normally made by adding 's to the word, such as 'Kelsey's book'



part of the sentence, excluding the subject, that expresses something about the subject, such as 'He fell to the floor'



introductory statement in the front of the book written by the author



characters preceding a word that may alter its meaning, such as 'anti' or 'pro'



a word that relates a noun or pronoun to another word in the sentence, such as 'about, from, to, near, around'



a word used as a replacement for something else, such as 'I, we, they, mine, its, whoever, everyone'



close examination of text to find and correct mistakes in format, usage and spelling; usually the final step of the entire editing process


proper noun

a noun that is the name of a specific person or place, like John, Naples or Virginia



normal free-form language, as opposed to poetry or verse; literature is normally written in prose


public domain

any work that is not protected by a copyright or trademark



a question to the author from the editor or proofreader


question mark

the ( ? ) mark



a verbatim reference to words from another source, normally attributed to the source and surrounded with quotation marks


ragged right

text that is aligned on the left but not on the right



to mark up a copy of a manuscript with changes and additions


restrictive clause

a subordinate clause essential to the meaning of the sentence and which does not need to be preceded by a comma, such as 'the man with the moustache stepped forward'



normal typestyle that is neither bold nor italic


rough draft

the initial version of a new work



the percentage of book sales paid to the author by the publisher



a thin vertical or horizontal line on a page.


running head

a title that is repeated at the top of every page


run-on sentence

a sentence containing two or more independent clauses that are improperly joined together, or that is just too long



character sets that do not contain serifs or small lines on the ends of strokes, like Arial



the ( ; ) mark used to separate clauses in places where a comma is not sufficient


sentence fragment

a sentence that is missing the required parts (noun and verb) or is incomplete is some way


serial comma

the comma that is used in a list before the word 'and', such as the 'one, two, and three'



a font with small lines crossing the ends of strokes, like Times New Roman



used to identify incorrect spelling of a word that has been approved or was used that way in the original source



information placed in a box next to the main article to emphasize points or add additional information



comparing two things using the word 'like' or 'as', such as 'Ali stung like a bee'



the ( / ) character


small caps

a style where lower case letters are replaced with capital letters equal to x-height



a special form of a poem containing 14 lines in a special structure



bound edge of a book or magazine that normally has printing


split infinitive

a verb form where an adverb or phrase comes between the 'to' and the verb, such as 'She hoped to quickly leave'



proofreading mark indicating that editing marks should be ignored and text displayed as the original--'let it stand'


style sheet

the form used by the writer and editors to track any special grammar and word usage in the manuscript, as well as special instructions such as copyrights required



a title used in the body of the text for a section or paragraph heading



verb form used to indicate possibility of an event, or as viewed emotionally


subordinating conjunction

a conjunction such as 'although, because, since, while' that precedes a subordinate clause



a character, normally smaller than normal, placed on a baseline below normal baseline



a word ending that may alter the meaning of the word, or change forms, like from an adjective to an adverb, such as adding 'ly' to bad to change it to 'badly'



a character, normally smaller than normal, placed on a baseline above the normal baseline



words that have the same meaning, such as big and large



a short description of a work, often used in a review or proposal



needless repeating of a word or idea, such as 'final result'



reference book or electronic source of word synonyms and antonyms


topic sentence

beginning sentence of a paragraph that expresses the main idea of the paragraph


trade books

books intended for the general public, as opposed to books for students or professionals


trade journals

magazines and journals made for a specific industry


transitive verb

a verb that needs a direct object, such as 'He threw the ball,' as opposed to an intransitive verb


trim size

final dimensions of a book after pages have been cut to size



overall type design, like Times New Roman, or Arial



abbreviation for typographical error



uppercase letters, as opposed to lowercase (LC)


unnumbered list

a vertical list that has neither bullets nor numbers in front of each line



capital letters


vanity publishing

where the author pays to have their work published



a word in a sentence indication action; an essential part of sentences



five of the letters in the alphabet - a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y



boldness of a font


white space

space on a page with no image or text



last line of a paragraph that appears by itself at the top of the next page or column--differentiate from 'orphan' by remembering the phrase: 'orphans have a future but no past, while widows have a past but no future'


word break

breaking a word at the end of a line with a hyphen and continuing it on the next line


word count

number of words in a document


word spacing

amount of space between words. If the lines are justified (flush left and right), the spacing will vary between words to make the edges flush.


work for hire

writing done for wages without retaining rights to the finished product



text that wraps around an embedded graphic or photograph


writer’s block

an inability of a writer to set words on paper, often lasting a long time



height of lowercase letters, not including the ascenders and descenders (like a, c or x)



cross reference inside a document or book

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