Forget the idea that to be a great writer means you have to memorize every rule of grammar and style ever written. Should you know some of them by heart? Yes. But not all of them. They change too often. And you have better things to think about. Instead, compile a trusty list of resources to help you find the answers to life’s persistent writing questions.
I’ve highlighted a few resources that I’ve found helpful over the years. If there are other resources that you find helpful, please feel free to leave a comment and share with your fellow writers.
- The Chicago Manual of Style. In the writing and publishing world, this is the bible. A new edition comes out every few years, and covers all kinds of standards of style. Available in print or online, almost every employer will require that you’re familiar with this source. So get to know it now.
- Dictionary.com There’s no excuse for misspellings with today’s technology. And while I love a good paper dictionary, I can’t argue against the convenience and ease of an online dictionary.
- Purdue OWL Being able to correctly cite a reference is critical. But it’s not always easy. The Purdue Online Writing Lab guides you through the maze of citations, from APA to MLA, and in-text to endnote citations. They’ve been a staple in my writing toolkit for years.
- 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition ISBN 13: 978-1-59963-227-8 This book is a recent find of mine and it’s fantastic. Not only does it contain short essays full of helpful advice on how writers have succeeded in their careers, it’s also a plethora of information on where to send your manuscripts, articles, exposés, you name it. Keep an eye out for newer versions as this year comes to a close. Trust me. It’s worth the money.
- Technical Communication Today ISBN 13: 978-0-205-63244-2 This is another very handy reference to help you keep track of standard forms for different documents. Trying to remember the finer points between a memo and a letter? You’ll find them here in this well organized textbook. The above link for this book takes you to CheapestTextbooks.com, my favorite site to find great deals on textbooks.
- Every writer needs to be aware of the copyright laws and how they impact what we write, both in how we use other artists’ work (yes, I called us artists), and how our own is protected. For an easy primer on copyright and fair use laws, check out Seth Godin’s explanation. For a more complete, and drier, explanation, check out the U.S. Copyright Office website.