Swallowed a dictionary

This week I’ve been doing the final – I hope – proof on my middle-grade novel, Rich Girl, Poor Girl. At the same time, I’ve been writing down ‘tricky words’ to put in a glossary at the back of the book. That is, words I’m not sure a 9 to 11 year old would necessarily know.

I’m finding this tricky in itself. You may find this hard to believe, but it’s quite a long time since I was nine years old. Also, I devoured books, I was an only child and I began reading young, so I’m aware that I may have an optimistic idea of familiar words. I read a lot of different books, too. I was lucky enough to own quite a few, and as a family we went to the library every Saturday and I read my way through most of the children’s section.

However, I tutor English comprehension skills in a primary school, working with year 5 and 6 students whose first language may not be English, and I have a fair idea of which words they would ask me about.

So my word list has grown and grown, and it’s making me think. One option is to take out some of the tricky words and substitute easier equivalents. However, I have two problems with that. Firstly, my book is set in the Victorian era and I don’t want to take out words and expressions that my characters would have known and used. Secondly, the words I’m using, while a nine year old might not have met them before, aren’t obscure. They’re useful, descriptive words which add something to the book. I’d rather have a larger glossary at the back of the book than take them all out.

What do you do about tricky words, and what would you do in my situation?

The featured image is Dictionary – succeed by Flazingo Photos, shared via Creative Commons license BY-SA 2.0. No changes were made.


4 thoughts on “Swallowed a dictionary

  1. Not just 10 year olds, I think it’s always useful to expand vocabulary and I’m sure many adults will find it useful to be able to instantly access a glossary. I’m almost tempted to buy the book myself, purely to see if I know and understand them all. 😀


  2. Leave ’em in, have a big ol’ glossary at the back (or, if you think it might work better, “tricky word” footnotes so the definition’s right there on the page already, no flipping to the back and then back to the page in progress).


  3. Lynda Tull

    You said yourself, your knowledge of words owes a lot to the fact that you read widely – it’s not going to help this generation of children if the books they read don’t contain any new words, otherwise how will they ever expand their vocabulary ? Use words they won’t know, use delightful, expressive and interesting words, the sort of words that make our language dance, and let them realise that language and the way it’s used isn’t just about communicating things as simply as possible.


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