May 9, 2022
Have you ever been writing or editing something, have to stop, and say “this is a job for Google”?
I’ve done it so many times, I’ve lost count. Some of the things I search I’ve had to look up multiple times because the answer doesn’t stick in my head.
Plus, sometimes the things I search feel like things I should just know. (You’ll see some examples later.)
But I felt wildly comforted when Patricia T. O’Conner, the author of Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, said there are some words she’s always going to spell wrong and will always have to look up.
Writers and editors are human, after all.
So I thought I’d put together a list of things I’ve Googled over the years (for writing and editing) that are hopefully either relatable or entertaining. I know I love to see what other writers Google in the name of their stories 😛
A Non-Comprehensive List of Things I’ve Googled
1. The difference between “insure” and “ensure”
Here’s where I really connected to O’Conner. I have never been able to remember the difference between these. If I have to use one, or a client has used one, I go straight to a dictionary (usually by way of Google ;P). I probably always will. Those pesky little buggers.
2. The history of doughnuts
I spent a long time looking for this. Do I remember the site where I found the answer? Nope. But Google definitely led me to it.
In my completed work in progress (WIP), my main characters chat while eating doughnuts. The older one – a centuries-old vampire – remarks that doughnuts haven’t always been around for him.
Of course, I had to Google when they actually were invented, or would have at least crossed his path for the first time, to make sure that sentence is true.
Luckily for me, it is.
3. The history of apple pie
As you can probably guess, this one ties into the last.
Because of course I had to have him say “at least I’ve always been in a world with ___”
But I needed that blank.
Guess what! Apple pie has been around since at least the 16th century!
Blank = filled. Thanks, Google.
4. How long it takes to get from x to x
This applies to both of my WIPs. For the first one, it’s pretty standard. My characters are on the road. I want travel time for driving from one city to the next so I can put the appropriate amount of time passing, should that be required for the scene.
And I’ll let you in on a secret: I have never been to any of the places they go to. Ever. I used Google maps so much while writing that book.
On a more epic-fantasy vibe, my second WIP got me Googling how long it would take a horse to get from the south of Ireland to about ¾ up the island. (80.5 km in a day, ~326 km between locations, so about 4 days of non-stop riding. If you’re curious.)
5. Should there be a comma when ____?
Sometimes, you just get those sentences where commas could easily fit, but also sound right when they stay out. So which is actually the right answer?
Turn to Google, and you’ll get many a chat room filled with smart people who explain why a comma should or shouldn’t be in that sentence. Or why it’s up to you if you include it.
6. How long blood is good for in a blood bag
Yes, this is for that aforementioned vampire WIP.
A plethora of sites show it’s 42 days. And yes, my characters know that fact.
7. When to capitalize names and titles
This has come up for me in many a form, many a time.
In my own writing, I’ve looked at a lot of sites (most of them British, or about British society) about when you should capitalize lord, lady, majesty, and so on. And how to address those people.
I also had to look specifically at the capitalization of moon and earth for one of my clients’ poetry collections. I’m pretty sure I knew the answer before Googling, but I had to quadruple check.
8. The meaning of a name
Ok, so Google doesn’t get the credit for this one. This one goes to one of my favourite sites ever, Behind the Name.
Want to find a character name that means floral? Behind the Name.
Want to find a really strong German name for one of your leading ladies? Behind the Name.
Want to search the meaning of the name you’ve already chosen for your character to see if it fits nicely or just because you can? Behind the Name.
Need to see if the name you’ve chosen has actually been around long enough to justify naming an old vampire that? Behind the Name.
You get the idea.
(And yes, I’ve done all of the above.)
9. The history of one specific graveyard in Florida
10. The spelling of words I’ve always known how to spell
I’m sorry, but if I read a word like ball multiple times, closely together, my brain eventually says, “that can’t possibly be how you spell ball. It looks too funny.”
There you have it! A non-comprehensive, in-no-particular-order list of things I’ve Googled. Well, searched. Same thing, right? ;P
Given the nature of these jobs, this list is guaranteed to grow. Maybe I’ll do a part 2. Or compile what other writers and editors have looked up? That could be fun.
What have you had to Google?