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So You Want to Be a Guest Wordsmith?

You don't have to be a PhD in literature to be a Guest Wordsmith at A.Word.A.Day. All you need is a love of words, a delight in words as they caper about on the pages of a book, scrawl of a note, or the phosphor of a computer screen, and the ability to feel the joy of using just the right words.

If you are selected to be a Guest Wordsmith, you will be read by nearly 400,000 subscribers in more than in 170 countries. You can count on hearing from lots of people about your theme. Over all it has been a very positive experience for everyone who has previously been featured as a Guest Wordsmith.

Here are some guidelines that will help you in identifying a suitable theme for AWAD. Remember, these are only guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You can deviate from them -- but you better have a good reason for it.


It is a good idea to be on the list for several months before attempting to be a Guest Wordsmith. This will help you get a feel for the list, acquire an understanding of how themes and words are featured and how this whole thing works.

Words are featured in weekly themes that unite the words with some underlying idea. It could be words from a particular author (e.g., Ernest Hemingway) or words from a particular work (e.g., Tagore's Geetanjali). Words may be organized according to their spelling (words with all vowels), or etymology (eponyms). You may see some examples of themes featured in the past in the archives. Just because a theme has been used in the past doesn't mean you can't come up with a new angle on it or identify a fresh set of words related to the same theme.

It is important to note here that the themes should not be based on esoteric subjects. For example, a theme on words related to fish species. While those words may be of great interest to an ichthyologist they are not likely to make a splash with other readers. Make sure that your words relate to the general population. For example, look at Nov 1995 to find a theme about fish words that I featured few years ago. You'll notice that most of the words selected in that theme not only relate to fish but they also have a second meaning unrelated to fish.

The final product of this step is a 1-2 para theme statement that will introduce readers to the words of the week.

A few examples of theme statements from the past guest wordsmiths:
Rudy Chelminski
John (Ol' Chumbucket) Baur
Judge Bruce M. Selya


Once you have identified a theme, you will want to select words related to it. In some cases, the process may work the other way around. You may come up with a few words that share some common characteristic and then devise a theme that makes their relationship more explicit. Either way, you don't need to include definitions or usage examples. I take care of that. An exception to this is when the theme is words from a particular work, where it makes more sense to take usage examples from the same work. For example, if you are going to feature words from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, giving citations of the words from Time magazine is not very congruous. Make sure you include sentences with words taken from that work.

Check with the alphabetical index of all the words featured so far in AWAD to make sure that the words have not been used previously. In the word index you'll notice that some of the words are listed more than once. Usually I try to avoid repeating words unless there is an excellent reason for doing so, or somehow the word escaped my attention as having been used in the past.

The final product of this step is 10 - 14 words related to the theme.


Once you are ready with the theme statement and the words, send them in plain-text (no attachment) to the address (words AT wordsmith.org) Make sure you run everything through a spell checker before sending it. You may wish to write a few lines about yourself too. If your theme is words related to astronomy and you are an astronomer (or a student in astronomy or simply a hobbyist), it helps to know about it. Due to the large number of submissions, it may be a few weeks before you hear from us. If any of the above is not clear, please feel free to contact me.

Good luck, and thanks for considering being a Guest Wordsmith at AWAD!

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