What word for when?

Creating a word list

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Word lists are tools created by authors and editors to ensure correct spelling and word choice, and consistency of those across one or many documents. The purpose of a word list is to document preferred word spellings so that the author, editor, reviewer and publisher may refer to the list, as they might a dictionary, to ensure the preferred spelling is being used.

Word lists supplement the use of a dictionary by:

  • providing a list of words that are spelled differently to those in the chosen dictionary

  • listing words that do not appear in the dictionary, such as botanical names or names of people

  • listing spelling choices for words that appear in the dictionary with two spelling options (e.g. usage, useage).

Hyphenated words (e.g. agri-tourism) and shortened forms (such as acronyms and initialisms) should be included in a word list. Words that should be italicised, such as the Latinised name of a species, should also be added to the word list. Preferred usage of words may also be included, such as the preference to use the word ‘while’ rather than ‘whilst’.

A simplified word list is presented below. Some hyphenated words have (adj.) after them, indicating that the word is hyphenated only when used adjectively (as a compound adjective before a noun) but not when used after a noun.

Abe, Jeff
above-ground (adj.) as in above-ground tank but the tank is above ground
Acacia aneura
agro-economic studies
among (not amongst, unless in quotes or extracts)
Australian Land and Cattle Company (ALCCO)

wet-season (adj.) as in wet-season rains but in the wet season
while, not whilst
whole-farm-scale dynamic simulation model
wind-borne pests
work-related (adj.) but non-work related

The word list should accompany a document throughout the publication process so that it can be referred to by everyone who reviews the document. It should be updated, with new words added as necessary, by each person who makes changes to the document.

Editors will almost always create a word list when editing a document. If the author creates a word list first, it should be submitted with the document being edited. This will save time, and reduce the number of spelling-related queries from the editor.

Dr Joely Taylor is a former research scientist. Specialising in academic, technical and scientific editing, Dr Taylor is an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd in Australia, an Editor in the Life Sciences with the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences in the US, and an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK.