This is a brilliant idea by Mary Robinette Kowal to avoid anachronistic language in her period fiction:
One of the things that’s tricky about writing historical fiction like Shades of Milk and Honey is getting the vocabulary right. There are a lot of words which are obviously anachronisms but there others which aren’t. Short of looking up every word in a novel, there’s no way to really know if a seemingly innocuous word like “hello” exists yet.
So here’s my plan for Glamour in Glass.
I’ve created a list of all the words that are in the collected works of Jane Austen to use for my spellcheck dictionary. It will flag any word that she didn’t use and I can then look those up to see if it was in use in 1815. It also includes some of Miss Austen’s specific spellings like “shew” and “chuse.”
It won’t be perfect. For instance it won’t flag words whose meanings have changed, like “check” or “staid” but it will be an improvement.
This really is fantastic, and would avoid some of those tiny anacrhonisms that make you, the author, look like someone who hasn’t done their research when in reality you’ve done 10 hrs research, not the 10.5 hrs required to avoid that tiny mistake.
For the curious, there are 14,793 words on the list.
Read more about it here: http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/the-jane-austen-word-list/