While you're writing the book that you may (or may not) intend to self-publish, you'll most likely dive into a wide variety of different dictionaries and thesauruses. Like you, we wanted to find out the most popular and best dictionary list for writers to keep to hand during the fiction writing process. And of course, the editing thereafter.
Along with a list of metaphors and similes to inspire you to find your own unique wording, a Roget's buffet of synonyms to whet the writing appetite is always useful - or perhaps you have a forever friend in the Collins Pocket English Thesaurus instead, where the word is listed in red to stand out on the page.
You may prefer the Chambers Guide to Idioms to inject phrases into your fictional character's dialogue or the Chambers Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms with many thousands of A-Z options for word choices. Maybe you find the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang useful to making your characters talk like real people.
So where does that all leave us writers? Too much choice?
How To Choose A Dictionary or Thesaurus
It can be a writing and time challenge to find the list of dictionaries that may be on your writing shelf as a well-used pal. How do you choose? From the book jacket cover or thumb index tabs, table of contents or a personal reference from another writer?
Only you will know what will be the most useful dictionary you can own. It's easy enough finding the most up-to-date dictionary available, but will it be the right one for you and your writing requirements?
You will know what kind of dictionary or thesaurus should sit beside your PC throughout your novel writing process. Before you ask yourself "What it is that I want from a dictionary", take a look at some that we found - they all suit different purposes in the writing process.
For example, if you're writing fantasy you may want to dive into Fantasy and Fables or if you're writing a thriller with a psycho running around, the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology will help to deepen not only your mad villain but your hero too.
We've had fun finding this initial list of dictionaries for writers but if you have one that we absolutely should feature, please drop us a line or give us some comments below.
Let's go ...
Using similes can really bring your writing to life: they create a visual picture in the mind of your reader and allow them to imagine your scene exactly as you do.
The Similes Dictionary is packed with more than 16,000 imaginative, colourful phrases such as 'quiet as an eel swimming in oil' and 'as plentiful as blackberries' to inspire readers. With examples from more than 2,000 sources such as the Bible, Shakespeare and Socrates as well as popular films, TV shows and music, the Similes Dictionary covers hundreds of subjects broken into thematic categories that include happiness, anger, virtue, age, ambition, importance and youth helping readers find the fitting phrase quickly and easily.
It’s a writer’s job to create compelling characters who can withstand life’s fallout without giving up. But building authentic, memorable heroes is no easy task. To forge realistic characters, we must hobble them with flaws that set them back while giving them positive attributes to help them achieve their goals. So how do writers choose the right blend of strengths for their characters—attributes that will render them admirable and worth rooting for—without making it too easy for them to succeed? Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier. Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find a large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile.
If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.
Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative TraitThesaurus. Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroes, villains, and other members of the story’s cast.
This book’s vast collection of flaws will help writers to explore the possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions behind their characters’ weaknesses so they can be written effectively and realistically. Common characterization pitfalls and methods to avoid them are also included, along with invaluable downloadable tools to aid in character creation. Written in list format and fully indexed, this brainstorming resource is perfect for creating deep, flawed characters that readers will relate to.
The book is arranged alphabetically on more than 140 words like, "air","man","love" and similes and metaphors with adverbs like,"as,"than" and "like". Works from more than a hundred of the greatest American, European and Nobel prize winning authors are included.
It will be an invaluable reference book for students of literature and linguistics and the general readers who appreciate the beauty of language.
A masterful metaphor, like a picture, may be worth a thousand words. By comparing two unlike objects or ideas, it illuminates the similarities between them, accomplishing in a word or phrase what could otherwise be expressed only in many words, if at all.
This title offers a collection of 6,500 colorful contemporary comparative phrases.
If you're writing about characters in your novel then the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology should definitely be on your bookcase to help you get to grips with the complex workings of the mind.
With over 11,000 authoritative and up-to-date entries, this best-selling dictionary covers all branches of psychology, including psychoanalysis, psychiatry, criminology, neuroscience, and statistics. It features comprehensive coverage of key areas, for example: cognition, sensation and perception, emotion and motivation, learning and skills, language, mental disorder, and research methods. Entries provide clear and concise definitions, word origins and derivations, and are extensively cross-referenced for ease of use. Over 80 illustrations complement the text.
The section on Phobias and phobic stimuli is a great way to add flaws to your fictional characters. Browse through the list to give your novel's people all kinds of weird things that make them come alive on the page with real-life wholesome issues.
Since Plato first coined the term 'mythologia', mythology has come to hold greater significance and power as a crucial element of civilization as a whole. Written by a leading scholar of ancient civilizations, the Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology presents the powerful gods of Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia, the more mystical deities of Buddhist and Hindu India, and the stern spirits of the African and American continents.
Drawing upon hundreds of myths from around the globe, it not only reveals the vast differences in these civilizations, but also demonstrates the unity of mankind in its fundamental need for explanations of the unknown.
If you're writing science fiction or fantasy, you'll want to dive into this dictionary. Not just for ideas and inspiration but to gain some knowledge on the history of myths going back yonks and yonks. You can look at old myths and make up your own, inspired from historical Greek Gods or any number of beings listed in this handy guide for fantasy writers.
This updated and revised edition is the authoritative guide to foreign words and phrases used in contemporary British and American English. Drawn from over 40 languages, the 6,000 entries detail the history of each word or phrase and provide selected quotations to clearly illustrate their use in the English language.
All genres of writing would pull an author into this book. Whether you're writing a romance and need some French lovey-dovey phrases or writing a killer thriller with a mental villian from any given country in the world, you can nose through this dictionary to spice up your dialogue or narrative with foreign words.
Drawing on the unique resources of the Oxford English Dictionary and offering coverage of over 6,000 slang words and expressions from the Cockney 'abaht' to the American term 'zowie', this is the most lively and authoritative dictionary of slang from the 20th and 21st centuries.
There’s no end to the ‘mind-blowing’ power of Modern Slang. As a mouse is electronically wired to a laptop so too will this dictionary become an intravenous drip to a writer. Hey ho, writers and authors ... read on!
At first flicking through and then avidly fixated with each page. If dinner, partners, kids and life in general didn’t get in the way, an aspiring writer, and indeed any well-tuned author, could get lost in this book only to reappear when they’ve chewed through every word.
Not only can you find modern ways with dialogue, but you can create sparkling ‘labels’ for your characters. Have a good nose through the thematic section, it’s like bottled inspiration!
We love this book - read our full review on Modern Slang.
Allusions form a colourful extension to the English language, drawing on our collective knowledge of literature, mythology, and the Bible to give us a literary shorthand for describing people, places, and events. So a cunning crook is an Artful Dodger, a daydreamer is like Billy Liar, a powerful woman is a modern-day Amazon - we can suffer like Sisyphus, fail like Canute, or linger like the smile of the Cheshire Cat.
This absorbing and accessible A to Z explains the meanings of allusions in modern English, from Adonis to Zorro, Tartarus to Tarzan, and Rubens to Rambo. Fascinating to browse through, the book is based on an extensive reading programme that has identified the most commonly-used allusions. Now available in paperback, this new edition includes within each entry a short summary definition for the allusion or reference, ideal for quick reference, and at least one illustration citation from a wide range of source materials in almost every entry: from Aldous Huxley to Philip Roth, Emily Brontë to The Guardian Unlimited. A useful thematic index allows searching for allusions related to a specific topic, e.g. under Intelligence find Aristotle, Einstein, and Spock, and under Hair find Medusa, Samson, and Shirley Temple.
Who? What? Where? Why? This book provides information about the stories behind words, names, and sayings. It covers classical and other mythologies, history, religion, folk customs, superstitions, science and technology, philosophy, and popular culture.
If you're writing a fantasy novel, should you read this book first to find out what fables are out there? What phrases may inspire you for your own novel? From Beauty and the Beast to beefcake and beauty is only skin deep to Frankenstein and frankincense and Freemason and freeride this fattie is designed to bring every novelist words and phrases that may beef up your writing.
Thanks to Dorice Hawkins for suggesting (in our comments below) an easy to read paperback for writers.
This revised edition of the existing 'Nuttall's Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms' is designed to help widen the reader's and indeed the self-published writer's vocabulary.
Lists of synonyms provide alternative words of the same meaning while lists of antonyms provide words of opposite meaning.
So instead of being in a MUDDLE: Confuse, mix up, jumble, scramble, disorder, disarrange, mess up - with your writing be sure not to: Perplex, bewilder, confuse, confound, befuddle, stupefy - your readers.
Try dipping into the easy to navigate guide when you need to get your verbs jumping off the pages of your novel.
Dorice also recommended that we try The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms with 4,000+ Idioms for a writing reference delight.
Another easy to read and navigate dictionary that looks at a range of examples, providing definitions and explaining how they should be used. This practical guide is arranged by themes, making it possible to compare all the idioms in that subject area and find the right one for the occasion, whether in writing or speech.
So if you're a self-published author don't ... GO DOWN WITH THE SHIP.
Instead - stay at one's post until the bitter end. As the guide explains, this phrase means: 'There was a tradition that the captain should go down with his ship. When the Titanic sank (1912), both the captain and designer went down with the ship, although they were offered places in the life-boats. In modern times, the rule has been relaxed, and the captain is expected to be the last to leave the ship.'
Marc McCutcheon's Paperback is your one-stop guide to synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary builders, and reverse lookups. Roget's has always been a writer's second hand so this Roget's Super Thesaurus is a perennial favorite among writers.
This latest edition has more than 1,000 new and expanded entries. This timesaving reference will help you find the perfect synonym or antonym to give your writing precision and color. From aback to zydeco, you'll find the exact word you need.
In this easy to use writing resource you'll find it comprehensive in content, with reverse dictionary, sample sentences, enlightening quotes and more that 400,000 synonyms and antonyms. So the next time that elusive, just-right word or phrase is on the tip of your tongue, reach for Roget's Super Thesaurus.
With more features than any other word reference, it's is a must-have for every writer's desk. Extremely useful and clean-looking with easy reference points to jump into the book and find words. However, it is ideal for American writers so it would be great to have a UK version. Come on Writers Digest please do something similar for us 'English' Brits who also want this kind of super word reference!
So there you have it. A great list of the best Dictionaries And Thesauruses For Writers!