The other day, on Twitter, Seanan McGuire put out a call for help
I have lost a word. When one large group sends a smaller group to observe a mission, it’s called a…?
— Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire) January 16, 2014
A lot of people responded, and they all apparently missed the mark by many miles, but author and Writing Excuses panelist Mary Robinette Kowal came to the rescue with a tool that I always (in a vague, back-of-my-mind way) thought should exist: the reverse dictionary.
— Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) January 16, 2014
(As a side note, I can’t seem to get the parent tweet in that conversation to not show up here, which is bothersome to me because reasons.)
As somebody who on occasion likes to use precise language but also sometimes totally forgets words, this revelation is world-changing.
This second tool is no less useful, but its target audience is a little smaller.
I discovered Markdown during the last NaNoWriMo. For those of us who sometimes like to write in plain text but still get to have italics and other formatting options available to us without having to go through any tedious editing work later to add them in, Markdown is brilliant and wonderful. Learn the syntax (which takes its cues from plaintext email formatting), write, and then Markdown turns your work into beautiful, valid (X)HTML, ready to publish straight to the web (if that’s your thing). (You can also just open the HTML with your browser locally and then copy/paste into your word processor of choice for final manuscript preparation if you like to make things more complicated like I do.)
With Markdown, Vim can play right along with Word/Pages/Writer as far as I’m concerned (and it’s one of the best low-distraction writing environments I can think of). For ease-of-use, if you’re a *nix user, just drop this into your bash profile, and you’re set:
alias md='perl /path/to/Markdown.pl'
(Vim users can also get Markdown syntax-highlighting scripts from github–I’m using the files from tpope/vim-markdown.)