Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Master List

Since 2007, I've been working on my Master Word List, something every professional crossword writer needs. The fact that it still isn't done shows that I obviously don't work on it regularly! It's a bit of a tedious task, to be honest.

Crossword words are an unusual subset — plurals, superlative forms (-ier -est) and verb & adverb forms (-ing -ly etc) are best avoided, there should no offensive or swear words, no gory, medical or highly technical terms, no sexual terms or slang, no really depressing words (coffin, cadaver, suicide etc), and no American spellings (for Aussie crosswords anyway).

So I'm removing as many words as I'm putting in. I'm adding things like well known Australian slang, place names from around the world, foody terms, very short phrases, and names of well known people. My word list helps give the crosswords I write "my style", so it's a vital part of my professional 'tool kit'.

The 'raw' word list that my husband found and is the base of my crossword software has about 58,000 words. It is from an American university, so there are a lot of the above words in it, especially technical scientific terms, disease names, and American spelling, of course. 

It also has lots of variant forms of words, and plenty of words that I just don't want to write clues for, and wouldn't be that fun to find in a crossword either. For example :
  • prepare
  • prepared
  • prepares
  • preparing
  • prepended
  • prepending
  • preponderance
  • preponderant
  • preponderate
  • preposition
  • prepositional
  • prepositions
  • preposterous
  • preposterously
  • preprinted
  • preprocessed
  • preprocessing
  • preprocessor
  • preprogrammed
  • prepunched
Out of these, I'll probably only leave the ones in red, roughly a third.

So I'm going through the list word-by-word, checking it against the Australian Oxford Dictionary (AOD). Yeah, I'm reading the whole dictionary. Pity my memory isn't good enough to remember every word!

At the moment I'm up to EXCRETION, on page 453 of the Australian Oxford Dictionary. Only 1,116 pages to go  >.<

It really would be a good idea for me to commit at least one hour a week to work on the list, otherwise it'll never get done! 


  1. Word building, as I called this task in my Spelling list, is great. Of course not a bazillion pages worth, but I love your list!! It will be an invaluable resource.

  2. I hope you get past Excretion soon :-P
    didn't know there was such a thing as an Australian Oxford Dictionary - sounds noice :-)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.