The Glossary of Common Writing Terms and Jargons

Have you ever talked to an experienced writer wherein he threw out some confusing writing terms that befuddled you? You are bound to be running into these terms as you progress into a more professional writer but having an idea as early as now can help you be on the same level as your editor and publisher.

About the Author – Brief information (one page or a few paragraphs) about the author and his/her other works usually found at the beginning or the ending of a book, research, websites, and articles.

Abstract – A short summary of an article, book, speech or talk.

Acrostic – A sentence where the first letters of each word in the sentence spells out a word. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas is an acrostic for the nine planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto.

Active Voice – A sentence wherein the subject is performing or acting upon the verb. The dog (subject) is eating (verb) its bone.

Advance – A partial amount of money paid in advance to the writer by the publisher to write a book.

Allegory – In literature are real-life characters, places and events written metaphorically.

Alliteration – A sentence wherein the words all start with the same sound. She sells seashells by the seashore.

All Rights – The publisher has all rights to publish all the work in any media but does not own the copyright.

Ambiance – The mood of the setting of the story.

Ambiguity – Words or phrases with simultaneous meanings.

Analogy – Comparison between two ideas.

Anaphora – Consecutive sentences with deliberately repetitive first parts. She was the wrong person for the wrong job at the wrong time.

Anecdotes – Real life interesting or amusing short stories.

Antagonist – The villain in a story and the enemy of the protagonist.

Anthology – A collection of short works such as poems, stories, and essays with one common genre or theme.

Attribution – Crediting sources of images and quotes.

Audience – The intended readers.

Autobiography – The author's own life story told in first person narrative.

Back Matter – Parts of the book that appears at the end which contains a bibliography, index, appendixes, and acknowledgments. Also called end matter.

Backlist – List of older books that are still printed by a publisher.

Backstory – Also known as background story is a narrative providing a history or background of a character or situation. These are often written as flashbacks or in character dialogues.

Beta Readers – Also known as pre-reader or critiquer are readers who read a manuscript before the work is published with the intent of scanning the material for grammar and spelling errors as well as critique the content of a story for improvement.

Bibliography – The list of books, magazines, journals, people, websites, or any other resources that you consulted in the process of writing a book, article, or paper.

Biography – The life story of another person different from the author.

Blank Verse – A non-rhyming verse in poetry.

Blurb – short description of a book usually found on its back cover for promotional purposes.

Byline – In newspaper or magazine articles, the byline is a line at the beginning of the article showing the name of the author and the date published.

Canon – Works that are deemed as the most important materials by scholars and critics for reading and studying.

Characterization – Creation of a fictional character wherein the author gives life to the character through personality and description.

Citation – A way of telling readers that material in your work came from another source. It allows readers to refer back to that work themselves.

Clich̩ РOverly used expression.

Climax – The turning point of a store where intensity and excitement happens. It usually happens when the main character begins to face the consequences of his/her earlier actions.

Clips – Published sample works of a writer.

Closet Drama – A play which is intended to be read rather than acted on stage.

Connotation – the Secondary meaning of a word aside from its primary meaning. The word skinny has a negative connotation that could refer to being underweight.

Copyediting – The process of checking a written work for mistakes in grammar, spelling, correct use of words and punctuation.

Copyright – The author's ownership of his/her work.

Copy Writing – Writing strategically delivered words that convince people to do a certain action. Used in online marketing.

Cover Letter – Short, one-page letter which shows a brief introduction of yourself, your work, your skills and achievements which are usually attached to a resume, curriculum vitae and a manuscript.

Curriculum Vitae – Similar to a resume but detailed and longer.

Denotation – Literal meaning of a word.

Example: A white dove is purely a white bird with a small head and a cooing voice which were used as messengers in the old days. The connotation of a white dove is peace.

Denouement – The part after the climax when the consequences have been resolved.

Dialogue – Words exchanged between the characters in a story.

Diction – Combined choice of words, phrases, sentence structures and figurative language.

Didactic – works that intend to teach. Example: Aesop's Fables

Double Entendre – A phrase that has the double meaning.

Draft – Preliminary stage of writing where the completed version may be revised and rewritten.

Dummy – Sample of a book with the title page, a few pages of text and blank pages created to show what the book will look like.

Dust Jacket – a Detachable paper cover of a hardbound book.

Edit – Reviewing the written work for grammar, spelling, punctuation errors and correct word usage. Editing also includes lengthening or shortening written works.

Editor – A person who edits written works.

Editorial – Statement of opinions and views in newspapers or magazines usually written by a member of the publication.

Elegy – A serious poem usually a lament for the dead.

Embargo – Prohibition of publishing of works until a specified date. Used in press releases to ensure that all news outlets release information on the same date.

Endnote – Explanations and notes at the end of a book.

Epic – a long poem depicting the tales, adventures, and deeds of heroic figures.

Epigram – Short and clever poem usually satirical or humorous.

Fair Use – Copying of any copyrighted material for purposes of commenting, criticizing or studying the material. 

First Print Rights – The right to be the first to print written works. Once the rights have been assigned, the work cannot be published anywhere else however these rights vary. There are also First North American Serial Rights which is the right to be the first to print in North America.

Flash Fiction – Extremely short fiction with only a few hundred words sometimes ranging from 100 – 750 words.

Flat Fee – A single fixed fee paid one time to an author for his work.

Frontlist – Books that are published in the current year.

Free Verse – Open poetry that does not follow rhyme or meter.

Freewriting – Writing without limitations in grammar, spelling and sentence fragments. This is usually used to generate ideas or when an author is experiencing writer's block.

Front Matter – Parts of the book that appear at the front like a table of contents, about the author and title page.

Galleys – Advanced copies created by publishers ahead of the final printing and release of the book. It is usually sent to reviewers and booksellers who are critical to the success of the book.

Genre – The category of a book – drama, romance, mystery, adventure, young adult, etc.

Ghostwriter – A writer who is not credited for his/her work and is hired and paid to write for someone else.

Guidelines – A publisher's instructions for submitting work.

Hardcover – Pages of a book bound by a hard, thick cover and covered with a dust jacket.

Half Title – First page of a book that has nothing but the title.

High Concept – An idea that can be briefly captured in a short title and tagline and immediately garner interest.

Hook – A sentence or phrase that pulls a reader into the book from the start.

House style – A publisher's style guide.

Imagery – Visually descriptive phrases or words for readers to get a picture of what the author has written.

Imprint – Trade name under which a publisher publishes work.

ISBN – Short for International Standard Book Number, is a 10 or 13 digit number assigned to each published book for inventory purposes.

Jargon – Words or expressions familiar only to a certain group or profession.

Journal – A record of events, thoughts, and feelings.

Kicker – Surprising turn of events or revelation at the end of an article.

Kill fee – Payment made by a magazine or newspaper to an author of a written work that has been canceled or not published.

Lead – The first paragraph in a manuscript.

Lead Time – The time between submitting a manuscript and the publishing of the written work.

Limerick – Short form of poetry which has a light, silly and humorous style.

Literary Agent – A person who represents the author and his/her works to the publishers.

Logline – Single sentence describing a script.

Loop Writing – a technique formed by Peter Elbow wherein ideas are taken from informal writing. Later, you do a loop by choosing one sentence from your previously written ideas and focus writing more points on that topic.

Manuscript – Author's final copy of his/her work prior to publishing.

Mark Up – When an editor adds editing notes on a manuscript.

Massmarket – A smaller version of a trade paperback book with a different illustration on the cover, considerably cheaper and intended for the general public.

Memoir – Collection of memories of moments and events that took place in the author or his/her subjects life.

Meter – Unit of rhythm in poetry.

Mood – The feeling that an author wants to evoke.

Motif – A recurring element in literature.

Narrative – A chronology of events that tells a story.

Narrator – The person telling the story.

Novel – A work of fiction which consists of 40,000 words or more.

Nut Graf – In journalism, this explains the main point of the story.

On Acceptance – Payment given to the writer by a publisher or editor after acceptance of written works.

On Publication – Payment given to the writer upon publication of the written works.

On Spec – Written works submitted without an agreement in hopes that a magazine will publish it.

Outline – A plan wherein sentences and subtopics are created in point forms to describe the main idea.

Over-the-transom – Offered or sent materials without an agreement between two parties.

Pace – The speed in which a story is told.

Paperback – A soft cover book.

Palindrome – A word or phrase that reads and means the same when read backward. Was it a car or a cat I saw?

Parable – Short and simple stories meant to teach a lesson.

Paraphrase – Express meaning in a different way for clearer understanding.

Parody – A humorous imitation of a writer, work or genre.

Passive Voice – A sentence wherein the verb is focusing on what is being done to the subject. The bone (subject) is being eaten (verb) by the dog.

Permission – A fee paid by someone who wants to reprint part of a written work for educational purposes.

Persona – The narrator or storyteller.

Personification – Form of writing where inanimate or non-human objects are given human traits and characteristics.

Pica – A measure in typesetting equal to 1/6 of an inch used to determine horizontal measurements such as column widths.

Pitch – A one-on-one approach between the author and the publisher to convince them to invest in a book. Usually done in conventions, conferences, and festivals.

Plagiarism – Copying word-per-word works of another author and presenting it as your own work.

Point – A measure in typesetting equal to 1/72 of an inch used to determine line spacing.

Point of View – The angle from which a story is told.

Premise – The main idea of a story.

Print On Demand – Publishing or printing a book as demanded.

Print Run – The number of copies printed at one time.

Proofreading – Reviewing a manuscript for language and formatting errors.

Proposal – A way of marketing nonfiction books to publishers for them to invest in your book.

Prosody – Rhythm, and sounds in poetry.

Protagonist – The main character of a story.

Pseudonym – An alias used by an author to prevent revealing his/her real name.

Public Domain – Unprotected material which can be freely used by the general public.

Query Letter – Formal letters sent to literary agents and publishers to propose ideas or to seek help for publishing an author's works.

Record of Submission – A record containing the date and place an author has sent or submitted works.

Rejection Slip – A letter sent back to the author indicating that the author's submitted work was rejected.

Reprints – Republishing of previously published materials.

Revising – Editing and making changes to a written material to improve its content.

Rights – Right of ownership to all the ways a work can be used.

Rough Draft – The first written version of a work which will be revised and formalized later on.

Royalties – A percentage of the retail price paid to the author of the book when the books have been sold, usually paid on a monthly basis.

Run-on Sentence – A lengthy sentence in a paragraph without the use of punctuation to separate or connecting words to join it. Amanda was accepted into one of the finest schools it was an art school.

The correct form should be: Amanda was accepted into one of the finest schools. It was an art school.

SASE – Short for Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope, sent along with the manuscript so the editor or publisher can send it back to the author.

Satire – The use of mockery and ridicule with the intent of shaming individuals, a political agenda, government or society to shape up.

Self-publishing – A method of publishing wherein the author publishes his/her own works.

Serial – A material that appears in installments in magazines and newspapers.

Setting – The environment in a story.

Short Story – A short story that can be read in one sitting.

Simultaneous Submission – Submitting works to more than one publisher or agent in the hopes that one out of the many will publish the author's works.

Slant – Also called angle, it is the particular mood in which the topic is presented.

Slush Pile – Collection of unsolicited manuscripts sent to a publisher or editor.

Small Press – A small publishing company specializing in a few genres.

Solicited Manuscript – A manuscript that a publisher has specifically asked the writer to create.

Soliloquy – the act of a character speaking out his thoughts and feelings aloud to make the readers known of the character's thinking.

Style – The manner of writing of an author expressed in word usage, grammatical structures and use of language.

Style Sheet – A list of grammar, words, and formatting to define the content and layout of a document for uniformity.

Submission Guidelines – Guidelines specified by an editor or publisher for submitting manuscripts.

Subplot – a Secondary plot that supports or contrasts the main plot.

Syntax – The chronological sequence of words to create meaningful sentences.

Tearsheet – An author's sample work.

Theme – The general topic of any written work.

Trim size – The final size of a page after all the excess has been trimmed.

Typeface – Specifications of a font.

Vanity Publishing – A service wherein the authors pay the publisher to print his/her work.

Voice – The style and tone a writer uses in his/her works. The persona that the author adopts to convey his message, which will be reflected in the style of the writing.

Weight – The thickness of a text.

White Space – An area in a page with no text or images.

Widows and Orphans – In publishing, widows, and orphans are lines found on the beginning and the ending of a paragraph. It is printed alone on the top or bottom of the page separated from the rest of the paragraph.

Withdrawal Letter – A formal and polite letter to a publisher indicating the intention to withdraw a previously submitted work.

Work for Hire – Work arrangements wherein a writer is hired for a period of time to complete a specific project but is not considered an employee.

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Last review and update: August 30, 2021
About the Editor
Ben Benjabutr is the editor of BookWorm4Life. He holds a Master's Degree in business with 10+ years of work experience and 8+ years of experience in blogging and online content production. He enjoys reading books about business, lifestyle and literature and he loves to share what he learns from books. You can drop him a line via e-mail.