Using German Vocabulary / Edition 1

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This textbook provides a comprehensive and thematically structured vocabulary for undergraduate students of German. Divided into twenty manageable units, it covers vocabulary relating to the physical, social, cultural, economic, and political worlds. Word lists are graded into three levels reflecting difficulty and usefulness, and are accompanied by extensive exercises designed to reinforce work with the lists that is suitable for classroom and private study. Clearly organized and accessible, the volume will meet the needs of a variety of courses in any undergraduate program.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521797009
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 596
  • Product dimensions: 6.65 (w) x 9.37 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Fagan is Associate Professor of German at the University of Iowa
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Cambridge University Press
0521797004 - Using German Vocabulary - by Sarah M. B. Fagan



Using German Vocabulary aims to offer a comprehensive, thematically structured vocabulary textbook for all but the very beginning levels of undergraduate instruction in German. The individual units treat topics that expose students to a broad range of vocabulary dealing with the physical, social, cultural, economic and political world. Vocabulary is graded into three levels that reflect frequency, difficulty and degree of usefulness. Exercises and activities are provided to reinforce and aid acquisition. The range of topics covered and the levels of competence addressed allow the book to be integrated into the curriculum in a variety of courses at multiple stages of any undergraduate program.

Because first-year German textbooks typically include a list of vocabulary to learn in each chapter, the acquisition of vocabulary during the first year of college-level instruction in German is relatively straightforward. After the first year, however, it becomes more difficult for instructors and students alike to deal with vocabulary in a systematic manner. Instruction at the intermediate and advanced levels tends to centre around authentic texts in the target language. The vocabulary that students acquire at these levels is thus limited in large part to the vocabulary that occurs in these texts. Using German Vocabulary is a tool for dealing systematically with vocabulary acquisition beyond the first year of instruction.

The past decade has seen the publication of a number of German language textbooks that seek to address the issue of vocabulary acquisition beyond the beginning stages of language learning. Some provide thematically organized word lists; others provide thematically organized vocabulary exercises; only two recently published textbooks offer thematically organized word lists together with reinforcement exercises (James and James 1991 together with Müller and Bock 1991; Lübke 1998). Using German Vocabulary sets itself apart from these in the level of sophistication of vocabulary presented, in the grading of this vocabulary into three levels, and in the variety and extensiveness of accompanying exercises and activities.

The acquisition of vocabulary is a cumulative process, involving multiple stages that range from passive recognition to active production (Nation 2001; Stoller and Grabe 1993). Different learning strategies contribute in different ways to this process. One strategy, learning from word cards, is an efficient way of learning large numbers of words in a relatively short time (Nation 2001:302). The word lists in Using German Vocabulary are intended as a useful source of vocabulary for the production of word cards. Two other important vocabulary learning strategies, using word parts (prefixes, bases, suffixes) and dictionary use, can contribute to the speed in which learners increase the size of their vocabulary (Nation 2001:263-281). Using German Vocabulary provides a special chapter on "Words and word formation" that discusses the structure of German words and addresses the issue of dictionary use. Various exercises in the twenty main units promote the awareness of word parts; many exercises and activities in these units involve dictionary use. The exercises in Using German Vocabulary are not limited to the word level of vocabulary acquisition. Authentic target language texts, for example, provide various opportunities for students to work with vocabulary in context. As the discussion of the various exercise types below shows, the exercises in each unit are designed to offer students a variety of ways in which to understand as well as use German vocabulary.

Using German Vocabulary is designed for classroom as well as individual use. Because of the range of topics covered, it can be used in a variety of courses as a primary or supplementary text. It also lends itself to self-study. An answer key is provided for a number of exercises in each unit, and the correct answers to many exercises are relatively easy to determine.

Structure and organization

The vocabulary in this book has been organized thematically into twenty units. Each unit presents vocabulary that centres on several related topics. Unit 11, for example, covers the topics of leisure and sport; unit 12 deals with tourism, travel and transport. Each broad topic within a given unit is divided into subtopics in order to provide units for acquisition that are manageable in size and to provide groupings of vocabulary that are semantically and pragmatically more coherent. In unit 9, for example, the broad topic of the visual and performing arts is further subdivided into the subtopics of painting and sculpture, music, dance, theatre, cinema and film, and photography.

Within each subtopic, the ordering of vocabulary items is intended to highlight the structural, semantic and pragmatic relationships among words in order to facilitate the acquisition process. For example, words like Gemüsegarten 'vegetable garden' and Obstgarten 'orchard', which have the form -garten 'garden' in common, are listed together to show structural similarities. Synonyms like Bibliothek 'library' and Bücherei 'library' and antonyms like bestehen 'pass' and durchfallen 'fail' are grouped close together to bring out the semantic relationships between lexical items. Words for objects that tend to occur together in everyday life, words like Hammer 'hammer' and Nagel 'nail', for example, are placed together to capitalize on natural associations. The order of items presented here should not be viewed as somehow definitive or static, however. There are many ways in which lexical items can be grouped together and ordered; this book presents just one. Furthermore, because the lists are intended as the basis for the construction of word cards, the order in which vocabulary items appear should be viewed as only temporary. (See the section below on tips for vocabulary learning.)

The vocabulary in each unit is graded into three levels. The first level contains more common, general-purpose terms as well as terms that are of relatively high frequency. The complexity and difficulty of vocabulary items increases in the second and third levels, so that the third level contains more terms that are technical in nature, semantically complex, marked in the sense that they belong to formal or colloquial registers, etc. Exercises corresponding to the three levels of vocabulary follow the word lists in each unit.

Criteria of selection

Using German Vocabulary includes more than just the most frequent vocabulary items in a given subject area. Because one goal of this textbook is to expose students to useful words they might not otherwise have been exposed to, less frequent but nevertheless useful vocabulary items are included in the word lists. Vocabulary items have been gathered from various sources, including specialized dictionaries and textbooks. Regional variation in vocabulary (primarily north-south differences) is noted; frequently encountered regional variants are listed together with their equivalents in the standard language. Vocabulary items that belong to the colloquial language as well as those that belong to elevated speech are included in the lists.

In dividing the vocabulary in each unit into three levels, an attempt was made to keep the number of entries in each level roughly the same. For this reason, the three levels should be viewed as representing a continuum of increasing complexity and difficulty rather than as three distinct levels of lexical proficiency.

There will inevitably be vocabulary items that one might expect to occur in these lists but that do not. If the lists were to be kept manageable in size, it was not possible to include every potentially relevant and useful lexical item. When words needed to be cut because of length considerations, compound nouns were among those that were typically excluded. The German language contains many compound nouns; the productivity of compound formation is in fact one of the distinctive features of the language (Durrell 2002:476). Because many German compounds are transparent in meaning to native speakers of English, they could be excluded without major loss of coverage. For example, a compound like Gartenweg 'garden path', which is composed of the words Garten 'garden' and Weg 'path', can be understood as well as produced if one knows the words Garten and Weg, and for this reason it was not included in the word lists. A compound like Bürgersteig 'pavement', however, is not transparent in the same way (the meaning 'pavement' cannot be determined directly from the meanings of Bürger 'citizen' and Steig 'steep path') and for this reason was not excluded from the lists. Because of the natural connections among the various topics and subtopics in this book, many lexical items could have occurred in more than one unit, but do not in order to avoid repetition and conserve space. The word Spionage 'spying, espionage', for example, would be appropriate under the categories of law, war, and politics and international relations. Instead of repeating this item in all three categories, it has been put only in the category of politics and international relations.


The exercises that follow the word lists in each unit are intended for individual as well as classroom use. They are designed to aid and reinforce the acquisition of the vocabulary in the lists by helping students move from the passive stages of vocabulary acquisition to the active stages, that is, from recognizing and understanding vocabulary to using it appropriately in discourse.

The exercises also provide students with examples of vocabulary in use. Each unit contains at least one authentic German-language text per exercise level that is used as the basis for an exercise. The sentences used for the sentence-completion exercises are based on authentic text. The English sentences that students are asked to translate into German are also based on attested German sentences. Thus the results of such translation exercises mirror authentic text. It is suggested that some texts should be translated orally.

The following list presents the most common types of exercises that occur in Using German Vocabulary along with ways in which each exercise type aids acquisition. These exercises all reinforce the work done with word cards. To the extent that students use dictionaries to complete these exercises, they also promote dictionary use, which has been shown to help students learn vocabulary and understand and produce text (Luppescu and Day 1993; Knight 1994).

Exercise Benefit
Matching words and definitions Strengthens the form-meaning connection; exposes learners to German-language definitions.
Solving crossword puzzles Strengthens the form-meaning connection; exposes learners to German-language definitions.
Matching associated words Helps in understanding the full meaning of a word by focusing on its relationship to other words; helps in recalling a word or its meaning in appropriate contexts.
Building complex words Helps learners retain knowledge about new complex words; strengthens knowledge about stems, affixes and word formation that can be used to learn words not previously encountered.
Filling word part tables Reinforces knowledge about new complex words; reinforces knowledge about relationships among related vocabulary items.
Categorization of vocabulary Helps integrate vocabulary knowledge with knowledge of subject matter.
Finding opposites or synonyms Helps in understanding the full meaning of a word by focusing on its relationships to other words.
Completion of proportions Helps reinforce and establish relationships among lexical items.
Differentiation of similar forms Highlights differences between words that are similar in form; helps learners avoid common pitfalls.
Providing definitions Strengthens the form-meaning connection.
Identification of multiple meanings Extends the learner's knowledge of individual lexical items; raises the learner's awareness of polysemy.
Matching collocates Helps in acquiring the type of knowledge about words that can lead to fluent, native-like speech.
Sentence completion Provides the opportunity to put vocabulary items in context; brings the learner closer to the production of entire sentences with new vocabulary items.
Translation of English or German idioms Extends the learner's use of vocabulary items; raises the learner's awareness of the potential lack of a one-to-one correspondence between English and German idioms.
Translation of sentences into German Provides the opportunity for learners to use vocabulary productively to produce sentence-level discourse; allows learners to focus on grammatical issues involved in vocabulary use.
Translation of German texts into English Provides exposure to vocabulary in context; provides practice in determining meaning from context.
Summarizing German texts Tests comprehension of vocabulary in context; provides the opportunity for learners to use vocabulary productively in text-level discourse.
Composition Encourages learners to use vocabulary productively in text-level discourse.

Tips on learning vocabulary

Word cards. Put the words from the word lists on to small cards that can easily be carried around. Put the German word on one side (with gender and plural formation for nouns and principal parts for strong verbs) and the English translation on the other (native-language translations have been shown to be more effective than target-language translations; see Laufer and Shmueli 1997). Supplement the translations with pictures when possible, as this can improve learning (Nation 2001:304-305). Work with the cards first by looking at a German word and recalling its meaning; then work with the cards by looking at meanings and producing the German forms. Work with sets of cards that are manageable in size; use smaller sets for more difficult words. Change the order of the words as you work with them so that you can learn to recall each word independently. Because words that are similar in form and meaning can be more difficult to learn together than separately (Laufer 1989; Nation 2000; Tinkham 1997; Waring 1997) you should avoid including related words in the same set. For words that are difficult to remember, use a mnemonic link. For example, link the word to the sound of a word in English or German; note the meaning of part(s) of the word (for Frühstück 'breakfast' take the first part, früh 'early', and think of something like "an early bird at breakfast"); link the word to the situation in which it appeared (Cohen 1990:25-27). Say each word aloud as you work with it, as this can improve long-term memory (Ellis 1997). Work with your word cards on a regular (daily) basis.

Exercises. After you have learned the words in the word lists from one level in a given unit, complete the corresponding exercises. These exercises will reinforce the vocabulary you have learned and help you use this vocabulary. They will expose you to new vocabulary as well as help you identify the vocabulary that you need to review. Redo the exercises periodically to check and reinforce your long-term memory. Use dictionaries to help you complete the exercises; consult both bilingual and monolingual dictionaries. The Wortschatz-Lexikon is an excellent online source for information about usage. It provides millions of sentence examples for German vocabulary and therefore contains much information about use that is not available in printed dictionaries.

Additional reading. Find additional texts related to the subject matter of the unit you are working on. Online newspapers and magazines are excellent sources of text that are easily accessible. Some of the many sites that are currently available are the following: FOCUS Online, FAZ.NET, FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU online,, SPIEGEL ONLINE, STERN, SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, DIE WELT online, DIE ZEIT.


Vocabulary acquisition

Cohen, Andrew D. 1990. Language learning: insights for learners, teachers, and researchers. New York: Newbury House Publishers.

Ellis, Nick. C. 1997. 'Vocabulary acquisition, word structure, collocation, word-class, and meaning.' In Schmitt and McCarthy, 122-39.

Huckin, Thomas, Margot Haynes, and James Coady. 1993. Second Language Reading and Vocabulary Learning. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Knight, Susan. 1994. 'Dictionary use while reading: the effects on comprehension and vocabulary acquisition for students of different verbal abilities.' Modern Language Journal 78:285-99.

Laufer, Batia. 1989. 'A factor of difficulty in vocabulary learning: deceptive transparency.' AILA Review 6:10-20.

Laufer, Batia and Karen Shmueli. 1997. 'Memorizing new words: does teaching have anything to do with it?' RELC Journal 28:89-108.

Luppescu, Stuart, and Richard R. Day. 1993. 'Reading, dictionaries and vocabulary learning.' Language Learning 43:263-87.

Nation, I. S. P. 2000. 'Learning vocabulary in lexical sets: dangers and guidelines.' TESOL Journal 9, 2:6-10.

Nation, I. S. P. 2001. Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge University Press.

Schmitt, Norbert and Michael McCarthy (eds.). 1997. Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy. Cambridge University Press.

Stoller, Fredricka L., and William Grabe. 1993. 'Implication for L2 vocabulary acquisition and instruction from L1 vocabulary research.' In Huckin et al., 24-45.

Tinkham, Thomas. 1997. 'The effects of semantic and thematic clustering on the learning of second language vocabulary.' Second Language Research 13:138-63.

Waring, Robert. 1997. 'The negative effects of learning words in semantic sets: a replication.' System 25:261-74.

General vocabulary books

Apelt, Mary L. 1995. Wortschatz und mehr: Übungen für die Mittel- und Oberstufe. (Deutsch üben 9.) Ismaning: Verlag für Deutsch.

Buscha, Annerose, and Kirsten Friedrich. 1996. Deutsches Übungsbuch: Übungen zum Wortschatz der deutschen Sprache. Munich: Langenscheidt.

Ferenbach, Magda, and Ingrid Schüßler. 2001. Wörter zur Wahl. Stuttgart: Klett.

Forst, Gabriele, Veronika Schnorr, Martin Crellin and Adelheid Schnorr-Dümmler. 1995. Mastering German Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's.

James, Carol L., and Charles J. James (trans.). 1991. Basic German Vocabulary: A Learner's Dictionary Divided into Subject Categories with Example Sentences. Berlin: Langenscheidt.

Lübke, Diethard. 1998. Wortschatz Deutsch: Learning German Words. Ismaning: Verlag für Deutsch.

Müller, Jutta, and Heiko Bock. 1991. Basic German Vocabulary: Workbook. Berlin; Munich: Langenscheidt. (Companion workbook to James and James 1991.)

Remanofsky, Ulrich. 1991. Zertifikatstraining Deutsch: Wortschatz. Ismaning: Hueber.

Saunders, Joy. 1998. German Vocabulary Handbook. Princeton, NJ: Berlitz Publishing Company.

Weermann, Eva Maria. 2001. Vocabulary Builder: German. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's.

Wilkin, Susan, Cornelia Schnelle and Valerie Grundy (eds.). 2000. Oxford German Wordpack. Oxford University Press.

Weiss, Edda. 1999. Schaum's Outline of German Vocabulary. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Specialized vocabulary books

Apelt, Mary L. 1990. German-English Dictionary: Art History, Archaeology. 2nd edn. Berlin: E. Schmidt.

Barber, Josephine. 1985. German for Musicians. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Bathelt, Claudia, Kay Hollingsworth and Caroline Haydon. 2001. PONS Bürowörterbuch: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Baumgartner, Peter. 2002. Wörterbuch moderne Wirtschaft mit Anwendungsbeispielen. Erlangen: Publicis.

Bock, Hanne, Gisela Frey and Ian Bock (comp.). 1997. Elsevier's Dictionary of European Community/Company/Business/Financial Law: In English, Danish, and German. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Britt, Christa, and Lilith Schutte. 1995. Wiley's English-German, German-English Business Dictionary. New York: J. Wiley.

Collin, P. H. 1998. PONS Fachwörterbuch Recht: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. 2nd edn. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, P. H., A. Ivanovic and Dorothee Lantemann. 1991. PONS Fachwörterbuch Marketing: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, P. H., Rupert Livesey, Liz Greasby and Eberhard Schick. 2000. PONS Fachwörterbuch Medizin: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Revised edn. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, P. H., Rupert Livesey, Anke Kornmüller, Sigrid Janssen and Liz Greasby. 2001. PONS Fachwörterbuch Wirtschaft: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, P. H., Rupert Livesey and Dorthee Lantermann. 1996. PONS Fachwörterbuch Touristik, Hotellerie, Gastronomie: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, P. H., Eva Sawers and Rupert Livesey. 1990. PONS Fachwörterbuch Druck- und Verlagswesen: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, S. M. H., Eva Torkar and Rupert Livesey. 1993. PONS Fachwörterbuch Bank- und Finanzwesen: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Stuttgart: Klett.

Collin, S. M. H., Eva Torkar, Rupert Livesey and Armin Mutscheller. 1997. PONS Fachwörterbuch Datenverarbeitung: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. 2nd edn. Stuttgart: Klett.

Deliiska, Boriana, and P. Manoilov. 2001. Elsevier's Dictionary of Computer Science: In English, German, French and Russian. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.

Desinger, Bernd, Hans Walter Frischkopf, Ulrich Scheck and Helfried W. Seliger. 1999. Basiswissen Wirtschaftsdeutsch: Stoffgebiete und Fachwortschatz. Munich: Iudicum.

Dietl, Clara-Erika, Egon Lorenz, Wiebke Buxbaum and Walter Bonhoeffer. 2000-. Wörterbuch für Recht, Wirtschaft und Politik. Vol. 1, Englisch-Deutsch. 6th edn. Munich: C. H. Beck.

Eichborn, Reinhart von. 1983. Cambridge-Eichborn German dictionary: Economics, Law, Administration, Business, General. Cambridge University Press.

Ferretti, Vittorio. 1996. Wörterbuch der Datentechnik: Englisch-Deutsch, Deutsch-Englisch. Berlin: Springer.

Flory, Peter, and Bernd Froschauer. 1995. Grundwortschatz der Rechtssprache: Deutsch-Englisch, Englisch-Deutsch. 2nd edn. Neuwied: Kriftel; Berlin: Luchterhand.

Gerstner, Angela. 2002. Fachwörterbuch der Logistik, Mikroelektronik und Datenverarbeitung: Deutsch-Englisch. 2nd edn. Erlangen: Publicis.

Gerstner, Angela, and Jens Kiesel. 2002. Fachwörter der Logistik, Produktionsplanung und -steuerung Deutsch-Englisch. Berlin: Siemens; Erlangen: Publicis.

Good, Colin. 1995. Newspaper German: A Vocabulary of Administrative and Commercial Idiom. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Hammer, Wilfried. 1997. Wörterbuch der Arbeitswissenschaft: Begriffe und Definitionen. Munich: Hanser.

Hartley, Paul, and Gertrud Robins. 1996. Manual of Business German: A Comprehensive Language Guide. New York: Routledge.

Hartley, Paul, and Gertrud Robins. 1997. German/English Business Glossary. London: Routledge.

Head, David, and J. Coveney. 1999. Harrap German Business Management Dictionary. Edinburgh: Harrap.

Head, Peter, and Rolf Speetzen. 1998. Wörterbuch für Marketing und Media: Deutsch-Englisch, English-German. Frankfurt am Main: Media-Micro-Census.

Herd, E. W., and August Obermayer. 1992. A Glossary of German Literary Terms. 2nd edn. Dunedin: Department of German, University of Otago.

Keitz, Saiedeh von, and Wolfgang von Keitz. 1992. Dictionary of Library and Information Science: English/German, German/English. 2nd edn. Weinheim: VCH.

Kleiner, Herbert E. 1995. Dictionary of Military Technology: English-German. Munich: Verlag Kleiner.

© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

1. Towns and buildings, household, gardens; 2. The physical world, the animal world, weather; 3. The human body and health, the health service and medicine; 4. Physical appearance, gesture and movement; 5. Personality and human behavior; 6. Clothes, accessories and grooming, food and drink; 7. Perception, color and light, materials and textures; 8. Shapes and patterns, size and quantity, containers, time; 9. Visual and performing arts, media and popular culture; 10. Literature and literary criticism, speaking, reading and writing; 11. Leisure, sport; 12. Tourism, travel and transport; 13. Family, birth, death, and marriage, religion; 14. Education, science; 15. Agriculture, industry; 16. Business and commerce, employment; 17. The office and computing, post and telecommunications; 18. Law, finance; 19. Geography, history, war, and peace; 20. Politics and international relations, public services, social and environmental issues; Answers to the exercises.
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