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Where Do You Put Your Book's Dictionary?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by tlbodine, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

    This is, perhaps, an odd question, but I'm debating how to best organize things for my book that I'll be self-pubbing next month.

    For those of you who have made-up languages in your books, where do you put the glossary? Do you put it in the back or list it up front? Is there a way to hyper-link all the terms in an ebook so readers can easily look them up if they wanted?

    I take care to define terms in the text and use them in a way that the meaning can be figured out (and isn't totally essential to understanding the passage) but I do feel that the book would be stronger if I had a little section in there about language. But I don't want to front-load it and then bore the reader...but I'm afraid if I leave it to the end, the reader won't think to flip back and look (especially on an ebook).

  2. teacup

    teacup Auror

    I haven't got one, but I remember that The Inheritance cycle does at the back pages. The problem I found with it is that it was close to the pronunciation guide and (I think) the acknowledgements or something. It was a fun type of novelty for the first book or 2, I think, but it soon got tedious, for me. Just my thoughts that may be helpful.
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I also don't have one, but if I did I'd put it in the front. That way the reader will know it's there and that they can reference it if they feel like it. Even if the reader doesn't actually read the dictionary they're more likely to remember it's there if they have to flip past a page or two to get to the story than if it's just mentioned in a sentence.
    I believe that with eBooks you can add hyperlinks. I see them now and then in books I read, but I've never actually followed such a link. There are two reasons I've not done this. The first reason is that I don't know how and the second is that I'm too busy reading the story.
    What I would do if it was me is I'd add instructions for how to follow the hyperlinks at the beginning of the dictionary - including a practical example. It may work differently on different types of readers so you'd have to do a little bit of research there. I'm assuming that following a link is both quick and easy, but since I'e never actually tried it I don't know and I'm reluctant to try it out in the middle of a story. Who knows, getting back to where I was may not be trivial?
  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Depends on. If I'm writing fantasy then I usually do not have a dictionary but if I write historical fiction a dictionary can be very much a needed part to get all the terms that are being used correct.
  5. Asura Levi

    Asura Levi Sage

    It would go in the back. With ebooks is even easier to keep track of where you were (well, I just used a kindle, at it does have the convenient button to go back to the last 'section', don't know about others e-readers).

    To put it in the front would be like putting info-dump prologue, it would just get in the way.

    Personally, when I open the book, I want to start with the story or with really essential information I need. A glossary is none of them, so it should be in the end. Then again, personally.
  6. Gecks

    Gecks Scribe

    Most books that I have read that have a glossary have it in the back. I think most fantasy readers are likely to have a peek in the back to see if there's a dictionary there, especially if there are made up words. Just cause it's not an uncommon thing to have. And even if they don't look at first, any reader who comes across a term that confuses them is bound to have a look for a glossary.

    Saying that, I think I've seen them in the front too, and maps always go in the front. But only if it's short! If it was 1 page or 2 pages in the front, that would be ok, but much more would be like an information-dump as Asura Levi put it.

    Picking up a book near me that I remember has a glossary... Tamora Pierce puts a glossary in the back of her books in the Beka Cooper series (I can't remember if she does in her other series..es, I don't think so. But this one [unlike her others] is a 1st person written like a journal). She also gives a 'cast of characters' which is nicely laid out, and a list of commands that the scent hound responds to (as the hound is trained in another language).

    Trudi Canavan puts her glossary in the back, and also puts (after the glossary), "Lord Dannyl's Guide to Slum Slang" which is essentially another glossary for the slang terms she has created in her "Traitor Spy" triology.

    I can't seem to find any books with front glossaries though I'm sure I've seen it somewhere...
  7. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    My The Lord of the Rings also have the glossary, genealogy etc in the back. I can think in another book like this—although I can't remember the name—which had these in the back too. I can't recall any book with a glossary in the front and based on my experience, I would look for one in the end of the book only for sure.

    If you're worried the readers would miss it put a simple note in the front warning about the extras in the end. Linking directly from the text to the glossary seems practical, however, I particularly wouldn't like it. Distracting, with too much feel of "internet". Well, that's me; I still love physical books, I might be getting old. If I had to talk about language in the middle of the book I would rather add a note in the foot of the page.
  8. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

    Hm... seems I can't edit my last post. Anyway I saw that I didn't really answer the question of the thread, and the dictionary should of course be placed in the back of the book.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Such things go in the back for books published in English. The French put that sort of thing in the front, so it's sort of a cultural thing. But when you're famous and they start translating your work, the publisher will handle all that for you. :)
  10. Edankyn

    Edankyn Minstrel

    Maps in the front, dictionary in the back.
  11. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    Steerpike likes this.
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    For me, I try to alternate pages between the story and the glossary. That way people don't have to flip back and forth.

    . . . .

    Sorry. Typically glossaries go at the end. I would find hyperlinks annoying and probably put the book down over that.
    Nihal likes this.
  14. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

    Wow, this got popular overnight :)

    Alright, looks like the consensus is glossary in the back. Works for me.
  15. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Dictionaries and other terms are usually put before the chapter index or between it and the story. But as you're self publishing I believe, with my kindle reading experience, that if there's a strange word that you made yourself then it can be clicked and defined. But I think it takes some sort of techy-know-how. Or the terms could be explained in the story.
  16. Vicki

    Vicki Dreamer

    In some of my science fiction novels, if there are several languages used, I make a glossary and put it at the end, but I include a note at the front end, before the novel begins, saying: Glossary page NNN. You can also use this method for notes such as dating and time periods, methods of measuring, and other cultural miscellanea.
  17. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    My glossary and list of characters go into the back as well.
    And like Vicky, I place a note on the copyright-page to direct people.

    Hint: Check those lists for possible spoilers. I forgot once, and got a load of comments...
  18. Somniphil

    Somniphil Acolyte

    Glossary at the end seems conventional, and as a reader that's where I expect it, whether I'm notified there is one or not. Personally, I enjoy footnotes. Perhaps, some of the terms that are more significant to understanding the context you can footnote meanings, while some of the terms that aren't necessary to know their exact definition can be listed in the glossary. I know readers who don't like footnotes, who don't like to pause while reading, so I get that this wouldn't work if every other word was something that needed defining.

    Best of luck!
  19. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

    Anything (written) in the front of a book feels like 'essential for understanding.' If a book requires me to read a dictionary just to follow along... I'm likely to put it down.

    You do state that most terms can be picked up from the context of the story, so the dictionary is added bonus and goes in back.

    I'm personally not so sure if flipping back and forth in a eBook actually works that well. In a physical book it is easy to keep tabs on where you were in the story and special spots in the back etc. In ebooks I think that works, but it's cumbersome.
    Actually, if I were reading such a ebook, wheat I'd like to see would be a link to a companion website. That way I could read the book without distraction, and check up things of interest on the website if I wanted - a bit like looking up things of interest in wikipedia.
  20. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I don't ever plan to use a dictionary. For my style, I make sure everything is either understood by context, or well-informed in the narrative/dialogue (without obvious info-dumping).

    Leaving some mystery to the made up words & terms, defining them partially by context, can add an air of mystery to your tale.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013

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