Branching out - writing/publishing a dictionary
Thread poster: Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nov 17, 2009

I wonder if anyone has any advice about dictionary writing/publishing?

I have experience in creating my own glossaries from other sources, and considerable experience in translating dictionary definitions for multilingual editions, but I am interested in branching out on my own and writing a field specific bi (or multi) lingual dictionary.

I'm interested in knowing the legalities of copyright (can I include terms and definitions from glossaries found on the net?) and above all I'm interested in knowing at what stage and how (under what conditions) do I contact a publishing company.

Any advice would be most welcome.



ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:42
English to French
+ ...
Copyright Nov 17, 2009

I have no experience in dictionary writing/publishing, but as far as the copyright issue goes, as far as I know, nobody holds the copyright to any word in any language. Of course, don't copy the definitions and other text--write your own instead. Also, technically speaking, a dictionary isn't a literary work but rather a reference book. As such, even if you used slogans and brands under copyright, you wouldn't be violating copyright, as you would only be writing about those slogans and brands and not actually using them.

As for the right time to see a publisher, I think that with a dictionary, you would have two choices. Either you present the publisher with a finished manuscript ready for editing or you approach them with an unfinished sample that is representative enough of the dictionary to be to give them a precise idea of what the finished product will be like. The first option is the riskiest and most time consuming, so I would go with the second option. In any case, if the publisher finds that the partial manuscript is insufficient, they would probably point you to something similar to the first option anyway. And if they do, that is obviously good--that would mean they are interested in publishing your work.

Naturally, before undertaking this possibly difficult and long project, you should do your research first. Would your dictionary be filling a void (respond to a need that hasn't been filled yet)? If not, how would your dictionary be better than the others? Is there a market for it? What would people looking to buy dictionaries such as yours be looking for in a dictionary?

All the best!


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Branching out - writing/publishing a dictionary

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