A Selected Glossary of Publishing & Literary Terms

ADVANCE: a payment to an author against anticipated royalties. If the advance is for a promised manuscript, the author may have to return it in case he cannot deliver an acceptable manuscript. But once a manuscript has been accepted, the author's advance is his to keep even if royalties do not amount to enough to pay back the advance. If royalties exceed the advance, the author receives the excess and the book is said to have earned back its advance.

AGON: The chief conflict that is the basis of the plot.

AGONIST: Party of the agon. Agonists are usually available in two flavors: protAGONIST and antAGONIST. One of each is recommended. However, the chief conflict of the story is not necessarily between the good guy and the bad guy. The conflict may pit your protagonist against nature or adverse circumstances or between conflicting impulses or values within him- or herself.

AGONY: Not suffering for its own sake, but the stuff of the agon. More is better.

ALLEGORY: Story meant to express observations or truths about human existence. Individuals usually stand for humanity as a whole or for whole classes of people. Personified ideals may appear as characters, and particulars often symbolize more general concepts.

ALLITERATION: repetition of initial consonant sounds for effect. Compare: ASSONANCE, CONSONANCE.

ANACHRONISM: A thing out of its time. A problem in historical fiction in that a writer may make reference to an invention or custom that was not known in the period in which his or her story is set. The classic example is the chiming of a clock in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

APHORISM: pithy statement or observation, not necessarily prescriptive.

ANACOLUTHON: Grammatical discontinuity in a sentence as when one thought is interrupted by another or a tentative beginning is rejected for another thought entirely. Anacoluthon is often better represented with a dash than with ellipsis. Example: Well, I suppose we could---no, no, we must proceed as we planned.

ANADIPLOSIS: Repetition of part of a preceding expression at the beginning of the following expression. Example: After we buried the old man we went to town. We went to town as if it were a holiday. As if it were a holiday, but no holiday in particular.

ANAPHORA: Repetition of words or phrases at the beginnings of successive utterances.

ANASTROPHE: Reversal of the usual grammatical order for effect. Example: He hated the opera. He could hardly think of anything he hated more. But he had no choice. To the opera he went.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM: is ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman and possibly nonexistent beings. The most common form of anthropomorphism is supposing that animals, such as pets, feel and think as human beings do.

ANTIPHRASIS: Use of an expression where its exact opposite would be appropriate. Antiphrasis usually is intended to produce an ironic or humorous effect. Examples: a bald man called "Curly" or a tall fat man called "Tiny."

[APACOPE: omission of the final sound or sounds of a word, as "vet" for "vetrinarian" or "veteran."]

[APOSIOPESIS: an expression broken off before completion, usually represented by a trailing dash.]

APOSTROPHE: 1) a mark used to indicate absent letters in contractions, dialect, and the possessive case. On many typewriters and word processors, the apostrophe is the same as the single quotation mark. 2) a speech to an absent person or to a personification. When a soap opera character in an empty room says "Greg, when will you come back to me?" this is apostrophe, and so are all speeches addressed to love, death, war, lust, or hate.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: at many magazines, the person who selects stories for publication (subject to the editor's approval), who corresponds with writers to arrange terms, and edits copy.

ASSONANCE: the repetition of similar vowel sounds for effect.

BACK MATTER: appendices, notes, indexes or other material which may appear in a book after the conclusion of the text.

BAD BREAK: when typesetting has resulted in a poor appearance of the work or introduced the possibly of a loss of meaning simply because of where the divisions between lines or pages fall, the result is called a bad break. Editors differ in their definitions of bad breaks. A WIDOW is a bad break. Others may occur when part of a hyphenated word is carried to the next page, when a hyphen inserted in a word to make a line come out even results in a possible misreading of the word (as when one cannot tell whether "re-creation" or "recreation" is meant), or when a blank line supposed to represent a change of scene falls at the bottom or the top of a page. An editor may have to alter the text to avoid the bad break, and if so the author will not [necessarily] be consulted.

BARBARISM: error in the formation of word, such as the combination of Greek and Latin roots in the same word, or a wrongly formed inflection. Examples: "Homosexual" (combines a Greek root and a Latin root), "teached" (past tense formed by the wrong rule).

BILDUNGSROMAN: coming-of-age novel, Tom Jones for example. In gay literature the form is known as a coming-out novel.

BLURB: Enthusiastic recommendation from a critic or other promotional passage printed on the jacket of a book, in advertisements, or on the beginning pages. Sometimes a critic's remarks are carefully edited to produce a blurb. "You are in trouble when you begin to believe your blurbs." ---Quintan Crisp

BYLINE: Line that contains the word "by" followed by a name. In the manuscript this is the line that contains a pen name if the author uses one. In correspondence with the editor or publisher the author should use his legal name and the author's legal name should appear in the heading of the manuscript.

CAMERA-READY: an adjective applied to the typeset work when it is ready to be photographed in order to produce the plates used in the offset process. When camera-ready the work appears exactly as it will in the finish book or magazine. Manuscripts the author submits should not be camera-ready, but should look like a double- spaced typescript.

CATACHRESIS: An inappropriate word or a perplexing figure of speech.

CATASTROPHE: the climactic event of the plot, especially of a tragedy.

CHIASMUS: an expression of two parts in which the elements of the second are reversed. So called because the similar elements CROSS between the two parts. Example: Jason said little and knew much; Phil knew nothing and spoke at length.

CLICH{E}: a threadbare or trite expression. Examples: hard as steel, hot as a poker, burning with desire.

COLOPHON: A publisher's logo, especially as embossed on the spine of a book or as printed on the title page; also the information concerning the production of a book sometimes included on the last page.

CONCEIT: An elaborated or extended, perhaps overextended, figure. Archaic sense: jokes, humorous speeches, et cetera as in "The historye of Henry iiiith with the battell at Shrewsburie, betweene the King and Lord Henry Percie, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceits of Sir Iohn Falstaffe" [title of the First Quarto].

CONSONANCE: repetition of similar consonant sounds for effect. Compare: ALLITERATION.

COPY: material the typesetter is supposed to copy into type, but loosely, the manuscript at any stage of production or the material composed of words as opposed to photographs and illustrations. Dead copy is copy that has already been set in type.

CRITICASTER: A bad critic.

DINGBAT: Special character which is not a letter, such as the pointing hand. Authors of fiction should not feel entitled to call upon these characters as a matter of course.

DOWN STYLE: Editorial style that favors less capitalization. Down style is increasingly popular. The opposite of down style is up style. An example of down style is that the type of geographical feature named is not capitalized when it follows a proper adjective. For example, [extreme] down style is "Colorado river," whereas in up style it would be "Colorado River."

[DYSPHEMISM: the opposite of euphemisn; the substitution of an unusually gross or offensive expression for a plain or more neutral one. Example: "numb-nut, adolescent twit" for "poet manque."]

ELLIPSIS: 1. (grammatical) Omission of words that are implied by the context. Example: Penny went to the mall and Julie, to the shoe store. In the second clause the verb "went" is implied. In many cases a comma clarifies the situation. 2. (punctuation) A mark that indicates the omission of one or more words. In the past asterisks or long dashes have been used for ellipsis. At present three periods separated by spaces ( . . . ) are the universally acceptable mark. Ellipses have little place in fiction, so the same is mark is used to indicate hesitation or pauses in dialogue. Neither hesitancy nor omission are wanted in narration.

ENTHYMENE: A syllogism, one leg of which is implicit. Example: Of course he was Irish. He was red-haired. The tacit premise is: Red-haired men are Irish.

EPENTHESIS: Insertion of a spurious sound or syllable in a word. Example: "Nuclear" when pronounced "nukuler."

EPIGRAPH: An introductory quotation.

EPISTOLARY: Written in the form of letters. This form of fiction is seldom seen anymore, but Dracula by Bram Stoker is an example and so is the erotic short story "A Roman Scandal" by Aaron Travis.

EPISTROPHE: Repetition of words or phrases at the ends of successive utterances.

EPITAPH: A brief commemorative statement, not to be confused with an epithet. A eulogy is a speech of praise. Now eulogies are pronounced over the dead, but in the past a eulogy might be offered to a living person.

EPITHET: a descriptive phrase used in addition to or in place of a name for a person or thing. "City of Light" is an epithet for Paris and "Bard of Avon" is an epithet for Shakespeare. Poets, notably Homer, have used epithets to make their meter come out right. Beware of using epithets too freely in prose. Do not call your protagonist "the red-haired genius" simply because you are tired of calling him Mike. Confusion will result if you refer to characters only by epithets and vary the epithets at every reference.

EPONYM: A word derived from a person's name. Examples: sideburns (from Ambrose E.Burnside), cardigan (from the Seventh Earl of Cardigan), sandwich (from the Seventh Earl of Sandwich).

ERASABLE BOND: an unacceptable kind of typing paper available under several tradenames that is coated with a substance that makes typewriting easily erasable and easily lost.

ERRATA: A list of corrections to a work, more properly called a corrigenda.

EXPOSITION: information about the circumstances of a story or the background of characters which readers need to know to understand what is happening. Unfortunately exposition is difficult to digest and is often offered in an "expository lump" which puts readers off. Skillful writers keep exposition to a minimum and feed the necessary exposition to the reader a bit at a time.

FABLE: Story meant to illustrate a moral point, usually involving anthropromorphized animals representing particular kinds of people or various aspects of human character. The moral of a fable is usually stated explicitly.

FOLO: an abbreviation for "follow," often in the notation "folo copy" used in copyediting and proofreading to indicate that the typesetter should set the copy as it is. An author might use this notation if words in the manuscript are intentionally misspelled.

FREELANCE: a self-employed writer, in contrast to a staff writer who works for a publisher. A freelance sells work to a publisher, but is not employed by the publisher.

FRONT MATTER: the pages of a book before the one on which the text of the book begins.

[HENDYADIS: use of words joined by a conjunction in place of a more usual construction in which one word modifies the other. Examples: "dead and cold" for "cold dead," "bright and red" for "bright red," "good and wet" for "well wetted."]

HOMOGRAPHS: words spelled the same, although perhaps pronounced differently; example: the present and past tenses of "read"--one pronounced "reed" and the other pronounced "red."

HOMONYMS: words spelled and pronounced the same, but having different meanings; example: "set" (which have more meanings than any other spelling in the language).

HOMOPHONES: words which sound the same; example: "night" and "knight" which are pronounced the same in most modern dialects.

HYPERBOLE and MEIOSIS: respectively, overstatement and understatement. Advertising and, perhaps, erotic writers who pander to size queens have saturated us with hyperbole. For this reason, hyperbole may best be reserved for satire or sarcasm: "Oh yes, it's huge, it's bigger than a horse's, it's tremendous, it might put the Chrysler building to shame, I'm impressed, who knows, it might grow to reach to the moon." Judicious use of meiosis, however, can be devastating as when, in a classic example, the British refer to the Second World War as "that spot of unpleasantness involving the gentleman with the moustache."

[HYPOCORISM: (literally, to call by pet names) the kind of expression used in talking to children, involving the use of pet names, euphemism, avoidance of difficult words, and use of "cutesy" expressions.]

HYSTERON PROTERON: A figure of speech in which things are named in the reverse of their normal order. Examples: So he came, cart and horse. Night and day---Cole Porter. We never wondered how he garnered his butter and bread.

GALLEYS: images drawn from long trays of type, use to check the typesetter's work. In modern printing galleys are no longer common, but the word is sometimes applied to modern proofs. In particular bound copies of page proofs that are circulated to elicit blurbs are often called galleys.

KILL-FEE: A pre-arranged amount a magazine publisher promises to pay if a proposed and delivered article cannot be used by the magazine. Since fiction writers usually submit whole stories to magazines, a kill-fee has little application to fiction. If a magazine has accepted a piece of fiction it should pay the whole price agreed upon even if it decides not to print the story.

K{U}NSTLERROMAN: novel tracing the development of an artist, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for example.

L.C.: abbreviation for "lowercase."

[LITOTES: expression composed by denying the opposite, such as "not so rare" for "common," "not so bad," for "good," or "not so good," for "bad." Usually understood to be understatement so that by "not inconsequential" the speaker means "momentous indeed."]

LITTLE MAGAZINE: a periodical, usually not published for profit, that prints reviews, essays, fiction, or poetry or more usually some combination of them, supposed devoted to high literary standards. Little magazines often run innovative or experimental works. A few little magazines pay for contributions, many do not. Some are widely influential, but others are virtually unknown except to the editors and contributors. Little magazines may be very helpful to a new writer who is selective in sending submissions.

MALAPROP: (from the name of a character by Sheridan) A wrong word that renders an utterance ridiculous. Usually the mistake occurs when the speaker affects a vocabulary much beyond his or her learning. Example: "A man his age is very likely to experience difficulty with his prostitute gland."

MANUSCRIPT: this term dates to a time when type was set from the author's handwritten copy. This time is long past. Now the term is best understood to mean the author's typescript.

MASS-MARKET PAPERBACK: a paperback book printed on paper like newsprint, selling usually for under $10, and available in grocery stores or adult arcades or newsstands. Compare to TRADE PAPERBACK.


MS: a common abbreviation for "manuscript." [Plural: MSS]

NOVEL OF MANNERS: a novel concerning the intrigues (usually romantic) of upper-class people. The novels of Anthony Trollope are examples.

OPEN STYLE: Editorial style that favors less punctuation. The trend toward open style has been evident for quite a few years. The opposite of open style is close style, which requires all the punctuation the syntax will bear. In open style, brief introductory phrases, especially those pertaining to the subject of the sentence, are not set off by commas and neither are brief references to time and place. Brief, parallel clauses are sometimes joined with "and" and the usual comma is omitted. Open style does not require omission of punctuation when doing so confuses the sense.

ONOMATOPOEIA: figure in which the words when pronounced are supposed to sound like what they mean. E.g. "hiss."

OXYMORON: a contradiction in terms, sometimes an error and sometimes a figure of speech. Some fun is had by finding accidental oxymorons or by alleging that certain terms, such as "military intelligence," are oxymorons. But some oxymorons such as "deafening silence" are intended figures of speech: "The searing cold of the frozen pipe seized my tongue." "Searing" is an effect of great heat, not of cold. But in the extreme the sensations of heat and cold may be almost indistinguishable, and that is the point of the figure. Likewise, one may be just as blind in a great light as one is in total darkness and this might be the basis of an oxymoron.

PARABLE: Story involving plausible characters and situations meant to illustrate a moral point.

PARADOX: a contradiction, beyond the contradiction in terms that is an oxymoron. [Example omitted for posting to a "family" echo.]

PARALLELISM: 1. Repetition of a grammatical structure for effect. 2. Expression of similar ideas in similar structures. [3. The requirement of grammar that cojoined expressions take the same grammatic form, e.g. "We liked to ride and to swim," not "We liked to ride and swimming."]

PERIPHRASIS: Use of a longer expression in place of a shorter one.

PERSONIFICATION: ascribing personal qualities to things or ideas. "Demon rum" is two figures. First "rum" is synecdoche because "rum" stands for the whole class of alcoholic beverages of which it is only really a part. Then it is personification, for ascribes to a thing the personal qualities of a minor evil deity.

PROLEPSIS: a figure in which a future situation is referred to as if it had already occurred. Example: "The first time he looked at me I was [censored]." Not yet, really, but very soon.

PROOF: an image of the type as set used to check for errors in the typesetting. Page proofs are proofs that are set up like pages in the final book, as opposed to galleys in which the text lines follow one after another without page breaks. [In the past only the most serious errors (such as libel) could be corrected in page proofs. Since the advent of electronic typesetting, even the first proofs may be set up as pages.]

PROSOPOEIA: Figure in which a nonexistent or absent person or personification is supposed to speak or to act.

PULLOUT: a quotation or paraphrase from a story that is set in large type to attract the reader's attention.

PULPS and SLICKS: Slicks are magazines printed on slick paper, usually with four-color illustrations and pictures on the inside pages. Usually, but not invariably, magazines that can afford to be slicks pay better and afford better treatment to writers. The opposite of slicks is pulps. Pulps are printed on newsprint and contain black-and-white illustrations, if any. Some pulps, as in the mystery and science fiction markets, are good markets, if not because they pay especially well, then because they buy many stories.

RECTO AND VERSO: Books are usually composed of signatures, being sections of eight leaves (=16 pages). Each leaf is two pages. Recto is the front of the page---it will be on the right in the printed book. Verso is the back of the leaf. It will appear on the left in the open book. Where pages are numbered, recto pages bear odd numbers and verso pages bear even numbers. Recto and verso refer to the leaf. The verso of one leaf faces the recto of another.

ROMAN (type): The usual body type. i.e. type that is not italicized.

ROMAN {A} CLEF: Novel about real persons whose identities are thinly- veiled. Example: Valley of the Dolls.

ROYALTIES: payments due a copyright owner for the use of copyrighted material. In common use, royalties refer to payments due an author as a percentage of the price of his books. Payments for the use of a writer's material in magazines and books by others are usually not called royalties but are called permission fees or even merely payments.

SERIAL: a periodical such as a newspaper or magazine. Serial rights are the rights to publish a work in a periodical and have nothing to do with whether the work might appear in installments.

SOLECISM: A substandard usage, usually an inadvertent slip.

SPOONERISM: A slip of the tongue involving the transposition of two or more sounds in an utterance (after English cleric William A. Spooner). Example: The Lord is a shoving leopard.---Spooner.

SPRACHGEF{U}HL: A feeling for language; the ability of using apt language.

STET.: a abbreviation in copy- or proofreading meaning "let it stand," usually an indication that deleted material is to be restored. Dots are placed under the material to be restored.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: the variety of rights contained in a literary work which the publisher of a book is not exercising but often administers for the author. These include motion picture and television rights, paperback and book club rights, rights to make various kinds of adaptations and sequels, sound recording rights, foreign publications rights, et cetera.

[SYLLEPSIS: construction in which a single word is applied to two or more expressions, but in differing senses, especially in a literal and a figurative sense. Example: "They rode into the barrage and history," ("into" applies to "barrage" and to "history"); "He ate with gusto and his fingers." Compare: ZEUGMA.]

SYNECDOCHE: Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the whole is allowed to stand for the part, the part for the whole; the individual for the group, the group for the individual; the specific for the general, or the general for the specific. Examples: "Back in the ozone again," means returning to the upper atmosphere where ozone is only one of the several gases. The expression as a whole is a metaphor for being under the influence of drugs. Pachyderm (for elephant) since pachyderm is a class of which elephant is but one member.

TABOO: editorial or publishing policy which excludes publication of works dealing with certain subject matter without regard to the merit of the work.

TRADE PAPERBACK: A paperback intended to be sold in bookstores. Trade paperbacks are printed on high-quality paper and are bound by a method similar to one used for hardback books. Trade paperbacks usually sell for more than $10. Compare to MASS-MARKET PAPERBACK.

VOGUE WORDS: Occasionally a word may become especially popular and may be so bandied about as to become nearly meaningless. Sometimes such a word was perfectly respectable to begin with. Other times the word was born a bastard. In either event, careful writers should avoid words that have become too trendy. Examples: charisma, codependent, epiphany, paradigm.

WIDOW: a small part of a paragraph that has been carried to the top of a new page. Widows are avoided for the sake of the appearance of a page. Exactly how much of a paragraph must appear on a page to avoid a widow is a matter of opinion. A widow is a kind of BAD BREAK.

ZEUGMA: Usage in which a single modifier seems to apply in differing senses to several words or cannot apply in any sense to some of the words it would appear to govern. Example: The tea and the sympathy were no better than lukewarm. Zeugma here is intended and is perhaps mildly witty. She wore bargain-basement clothes and diamonds. This is probably meant to contrast her cheap clothes with her expensive jewels, but as written the sentence seems to suggest the existence of bargain-basement diamonds.

Copyright 1994 by Lars Eighner. All rights reserved. Posted to this echo by permission of the author. Excerpted from Elements of Arousal (Kasak Books, 1994) ISBN 1-56333-230-2. [Additional Material in Brackets] {accent or special character altered due to FIDO standards}
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