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Kids Open Dictionary Style Guide

Above all, the guideline for this dictionary is keep it SIMPLE.

This is a dictionary primarily directed at children. The language level and readability should be consistent with that. Definitions should not contain words that themselves are likely to be unknown. Many times, this may mean simplifying definitions beyond what may be found in a traditional dictionary. This is not only acceptable, it is desirable.

Rules of thumb

* Don't be shy. Anything you do is helpful and appreciated.
* It doesn't have to be perfect. Whatever you do will be edited, added to, and refined by others. Also, it easier for others to contribute when there is a starting point.
* If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about a word or a definition, use the discussion page to raise them.

Forms of a word

When one word has multiple forms (such as walk, walked, walking; car, cars; or blue, bluer, bluest), list under main form (in the cases listed, walk, car, and blue)*. There are some exceptions to this:

If a word is most commonly used in a form that is not the main form, both forms may be included. For example, algae is included as an entry, even though it is the plural form of alga, because algae is the most likely form to be encountered.

If a word is rarely ever used in the main form, but commonly used in another form, the commonly used form only may be included. For example, backbiting is included, but backbite is not.

If a form significantly varies from the main form, especially in a way that a user might not look up the main form, both forms may be included. For example, both attend and attendance are included in the dictionary.

If different forms of a word have significantly different meanings or nuances (e.g. ), all the relevant forms should be included. For example, heat and heated are both included, with the definition for heated that refers to something filled with strong emotion. Another example is distinguish and distinguished; because the meanings differ significantly, both words are included.

* Note: In the final dictionary to be published, various forms will redirect to the main form.

Parts of speech

For words that function as various parts of speech, a sub-definition may be included for each. For example, skirt as a noun (article of clothing) and as a verb (to go around the edge of something).

Upon saving an edit, the parts of speech will be automatically sorted (in the order noun, verb, adjective, adverb). If there is more than one sub-definition per part of speech, it is up to the writer or editor to order them. The most common usage should appear higher up.

Irregular forms

For nouns, the plural form is only to be given when it is irregular. (Plurals formed by adding –s or –es need not be given).
plural: shelves

For verbs, the simple past and past participle should be given only when they are irregular. (Past forms with –ed need not be given.)
simple past: knew; past participle: known

Sources of definitions

All definitions must be the original work of the writer or taken from a public domain source. (Note: Wiktionary is not public domain.)

It is acceptable to consult sources that are not public domain as a reference when writing, but in no case should these sources be used verbatim.

Links within definitions

In general, links within definitions are to be avoided. Instead, it is preferable to use simple language in definitions that is not likely require looking up additional words.

However, if a word is included as an alternate spelling of another word in the dictionary (for example, _______), a link to the entry with the preferred spelling may be used.

As another exception, if a word is a form of another word, a link may be given. For example, algae may be defined as the plural of alga with a link.

If links are included, the word to be linked should be enclosed in square brackets, e.g. [alga].


In general, definitions are to written in phrases, not complete sentences. As such, there will be no end punctuation marks at the end of each definition.

If multiple definitions are given in a single entry (for example, different phrasings given for clarity's sake), they should be separated with semicolons.

Square brackets are not to be used except in the case of links. (See above.)


At this point, no example sentences are being included in definitions.

Having said all this, there are likely to be discretionary exceptions. If you have a question, objection, or discussion point for a specific word, please note it on that word's discussion page. For a question or objection about a general issue of style, note it on the discussion page here.

Words included

The original source for the words included in this dictionary was the public domain 1913 U.S. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Then a very large number of those words were deleted, because they were either no longer in use or not judged to be essential for a simple kids dictionary. In conjunction with that, many words were added, especially those that have come into popular use since 1913.

The following types of words are intentionally not included:
* archaic words
* words that are judged to be too rarely used or advanced for the purposes of a kids dictionary
* simple words such as pronouns, prepositions, articles, conjunctions, or interjections
* prefixes, suffixes, or other word parts
* various forms of the same root word (See below.)
* proper nouns unless they are likely to be encountered in academic reading, especially as adjectives in a sense that goes beyond referring to a person or place, e.g. Aristotelian, Bavarian

If a word is missing that you think should be included, please email it to us.

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