Post: 10 glossary terms that are a must for writers


If you’re just “getting your feet wet” for the first time in the writing industry, you might hear a lot of buzzwords from other authors or publishers that you don’t necessarily understand. Expanding your writer’s vocabulary will make it easier to navigate the system, especially when you’re corresponding with an editor or publisher. In short, you must be able to “talk the talk” if you’re going to “walk the walk.” 

As a writer, you might encounter a particular word that has different meanings in various contexts. For example, if you’re a live stage performer, and someone mentions the “audience,” you no doubt understand that it refers to the people who are seated in front of the stage to watch your performance. In the writing industry, you might hear talk about a “target audience,” which basically means a particular group of readers who might show interest in a specific book or genre. Learning the lingo and building a mental glossary of writing words and phrases will help you become acclimated to the industry. 

Basic writing terminology every author should know

The following list includes 10 glossary terms that writers, editors and publishers often use, along with a basic definition as it relates to the writing industry:

  • Active voice: A sentence structure where the subject noun comes first, followed by an action verb. 
  • Passive voice: A sentence structure focused on a noun that is receiving a verb’s action.
  • Byline: Author’s name, followed by credit for a book or article
  • First rights: The right to be the first to publish a piece of writing without exclusivity, meaning that others may publish the same work after the initial publication
  • Galley: A typeset draft of a book
  • High concept: Think of it like a mission statement. It is essentially a book idea stated in a single sentence.
  • Historical fiction: A fictional story that includes details that are historically accurate
  • Kill fee: Compensation a writer receives for completed work that was not published
  • Plagiarism: Unauthorized use of another person’s writing
  • Pseudonym: A pen name that an author uses when he or she wishes to conceal his or her identity

There are many more glossary terms that are common in the writing industry. If you’re hoping to earn a living as a writer, it’s a good idea to master the vocabulary of the writing industry. 

This can be helpful in many ways, such as if a publisher wishes to discuss royalties, POD (print on demand) or other issues. Such terms may not be familiar to the average person who does not have a background as a professional writer.