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If you are anything like me, you are probably doing a lot of self-editing as part of your writing process. If so, you may have often wondered how many people would use one expression instead of another during a certain historical period; which version of a word was in use at the era of your book, or even when a word first appeared in the English language.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to ask?

An unlikely tool to help you with all this does exist–and is completely free: Google Ngram. This little-known part of Google books can be a life-saver not only when you strive for historical accuracy but also if you wish to see which word form to prefer when writing. It checks millions of books (in more than one languages, too, if you so wish) to determine in helpful graphs how often a word is used in literature. It also lets you compare different versions of a word to see which one is more popular. If said popularity has fluctuated with time, Ngram will also tell you that.

Google Ngram | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Many thanks to my editor friend, Lorelei Logsdon, for this gem of a tip. I hope you find it as useful in your writing as I have!