I thought I would post a blurb about some of the useful tools I’ve found since I started writing seriously. Some of these may seem commonsensical but what I’ve discovered is that what may seem like common sense to me is sometimes a new concept to someone else. So it never hurts to share.
The first best web site I end up using constantly is Dictionary.com. Isn’t that silly? But from there you have access to all kinds of different dictionaries, as well as an extensive thesaurus too. You can also see entries from the Oxford English Dictionary which fascinates me; etymology is often a great place to start when you’re building a fantasy/scifi culture.
I’m sad to admit it, but I also use Wikipedia a lot too. Granted, I always double check the information, but it’s a good place to start, especially if you’re writing on a topic a lot of people have studied about.
One of the novels I’m working on currently includes a lot of Japanese language and culture, so I dug around to find a good Japanese conversion site. And I’ve found a lot. But the ones I use most frequently are as follows:
Denshi Jisho is the one I use most often because it has such a variety of options so you can make sure the word you’re using is in the right context. What it lacks is a pronunciation option. That’s what I use the Kanji Converter for. Plus, it’s a little more detailed as far as definitions go. Google Translate is fun because most of the time you can get an option to listen to the word being pronounced, but I’m not 100% certain that it always gives the best translations. So usually I end up cross referencing all three.
Another language variant I use is Hindi and Urdu. For Hindi, I pretty much exclusively use Shabdkosh. It also has Punjabi and some other variations. And the location of my Urdu/Farsi/Persian dictionary escapes me at the moment. I will try to look it up later.
Google Translate is also good for other language variants if you need help with names or just the general sound of a culture’s words.
Of course, I don’t speak any of these languages. The only languages I’m actually conversant in are English, Spanish and sign language (SEE, which many hearing impaired folks will tell you isn’t a real language). Maybe someday I will, but for right now generally I just use these converters as a base to build other languages/cultures off of.
There’s a slough of baby name web sites too if you need help coming up with charater names. There are so many it’s not even worth listing them. But those are a great place to check if you’re looking for just the right name.