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Mine has evolved over years and I'm sure I can still learn more about how to organize it. This might be an even more helpful question for folks starting out.

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It all comes down to preference, as long as the spreadsheets are neat and easy to read. Looking for other alternatives beyond spreadsheets is also a viable option. As an example, I used a bit of programming knowledge to take the data from my spreadsheets and represent them in a format that resembles old dictionaries. (That might not be for everyone, caffeine overdose is real :)

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    Thanks, Paul. I reckon that dictionary-look adds a bit of flavor and verisimilitude for you.
    – Vir
    Jan 25, 2023 at 0:43
  • It gives the lexicon a professional look that just makes it a lot easier to find motivation to work on (it's also a lot easier and more intuitive to use, so that's a plus)
    – just Paul
    Jan 26, 2023 at 1:04
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Although I've never tried it, it seems like a data structure other than a spreadsheet (a database of some form) would be more suited to the complex relationships between lexemes and definitions.

If presented sequentially, it seems like ordering the lexicon according to its writing system ("alphabetical order") is the only really workable method. Trying to order by meaning ignores just how messy meaning can be and doesn't account for figures of speech or semantic shifts.

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    You could also sort by the Romanization. That's what I do because a) I can't be bothered to remember the order of the Atili alphabet and b) I only rarely care how a word is actually spelled in Atili. Feb 10, 2023 at 12:51
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I'll throw my hat in on the main best practices I have, anyway.

In my view, the number one best practice in assembling a conlang lexicon must be:

  • Get familiar with whatever filters, advanced find & replace, slicers, conditional formatting, grouping, sorting, and other organizational tools your medium has. 10 minutes per day for a week asking, "What does the next menu option do?" may save you days of tedious manual searching/organizing over time. I have learned new spreadsheet features and functions while conlanging that I could use elsewhere, too.

Here I discuss an "alphabetically" organized google sheet, with the advantage it can expand indefinitely and organize numerous nuances.

The conlang-guiding spreadsheets @Ylahris made, Der Spracherfinder, has a theme-based starter words lexicon template. This could have the advantage over my suggestions if you're aiming to showcase relatively fewer words, or looking for prompts to get started.

Notes on the template

Why not just write all the parts of speech a word can do in one cell?

  • So that I can more easily find or organize patterns/exceptions, I have definition columns for different parts of speech and different transitivity situations (to shoot, to shoot it, to shoot at it).

What's the benefit of the Type column? Why start with the filter there?

  • I sometimes want to deal with or look among all words of a type. I could name quite a few more of these tags which I have found useful. But in short this tagging system saves me a lot of time and a lot of "I have fixed all the ones I could find. But could I be missing some?"

Why are certain cells colored in the template?

  • Conditional formatting can help color-code certain patterns automatically. Here, I have it highlighting duplicate/homograph words and certain tags.

What is the advantage of the +/- at left?

  • When you have dozens or hundreds of words starting with each letter, the collapsible grouping saves a lot of time scrolling, either when initially alphabetizing and/or editing words. Sometimes you want to Ctrl+F search only certain letter sections, too.

What do I need the top "?" sections for?

  • Often times working on thing A brings thing B to my attention. If I can make a note and place to put it in an "under construction" section at the top, I can follow through thing A without forgetting thing B.

  • Sometimes I'm on a roll thinking up good-sounding words. It's not always when I'm on a row thinking analytically and defining new concepts/grammatical approaches for the same words. While I am on the aesthetic roll, having a separate workshop section for extra "sounds good, needs definition" words can save time and improve both goals over all.

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Organizing a lexicon when it gets greater than 100 words is a problem. I tried text files, Markdown, and spreadsheets but they all seem to get harder to work with as the lexicon grows. I am working on the following hierarchy which may be implemented in a database. Note that each level may have more than one entry for the entry above.

  1. word
  2. etymology
  3. pronunciation
  4. part of speech
  5. definition
  6. example
  7. gloss

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