When writing prose or poetry, most folks are used to the standard dictionaries and encyclopedias. These tools are useful to make sure an author is using a term correctly. When delving into specialist, or niche, subjects, it may be a good idea to check and see if a dictionary or encyclopedia exists to make sure the finished product is accurate.
Not sure if a Petabyte is larger than an Exabyte? Is an IP Address the location for intellectual property? If one is not sure, a visit to a local library or to an online computer dictionary or encyclopedia is advised. The computer industry is rife with acronyms and cryptic naming conventions. A specialist dictionary can help an author keep her facts straight, particularly if she is not familiar with the terminology.
One of the most unforgiving groups of readers are those that identify with a particular crowd, such as computer geeks. Any incorrect minutiae will immediately invite scorn and derision. A good example is the movie “The Net”, starring Sandra Bullock. While the overall thriller structure is sound, the glaring computer technology errors make most computer nerds wince in pain. The movie was not as successful because the scriptwriter did not do their homework. Word of mouth savaged the movie for not understanding the basic specialist knowledge one would expect from a movie based on a technological theme.
Another niche subject that relies on accuracy is the historical novel. If one desires to write a story based in Victorian times, such as a steampunk novel, some of the language used should be accurate to the time period. To assist the aspiring author, Ambrose Bierce wrote a book called Write It Right.
In full disclosure, Mr. Bierce wrote the book because he was a stickler for proper English and he was sickened with the improper use of words used in the books and newspapers of his time. The book covered many words and phrases that are not commonly used in modern times. Today, historical novelists and alternate history authors can use his book to spice up their novels using actual words and phrases that were used in everyday life at the turn of the last century. As long as the author uses the terms where the context is clear, the reader will enjoy the accuracy. It’s a part of the world-building process that pulls the readers into the story.
No matter the subject, there is most likely a dictionary, phrasebook, or encyclopedia that can assist an author to craft an exceptional work. As the niche gets more focused, it is recommended that the author locates an accurate reference book to make sure their reader remains entranced in the details of the work.