Online Sources to Help the Hapless Writer
by Jeanette de Richemond
Creative writers seduce readers into entering their fictional worlds through the use of language. Therefore, writers must be adept in the use of their tools: spelling, grammar, and punctuation, among others. After all, no one wants to lose a reader because of clumsy sentence structure, or trip a reader with misplaced commas. When readers struggle with grammar or punctuation, they fall right out of your fictional world (or drop the suspension of disbelief). When you're intent on creative expression, "rules" from seventh grade English class seem to get in the way. That's a mistake, however, those rules provide the common ground that makes it possible for a writer to meet a reader. Writers face a challenge in appropriately applying the mechanics of writing Remember, you will have more energy and attention for being creative when you're confident about your writing mechanics.
From formal to fun, here's a list of resources to help you. [NOTE FROM DON: Jeanette compiled this list some years ago, so some of the links may have expired.]
American-British, British-American Dictionary: . www.peak.org/~jeremy/dictionary/ This "dictionary has two halves: American to British, where the explanation and definitions of American words are in British, and British to American, where British words are explained in American terminology and spellings."
Glossarist: A Searchable Glossary Directory: www.glossarist.com/ A compendium of glossaries on various subjects, searchable by keyword or browsed in over 130 categories.
YourDictionary.com: www.yourdictionary.com/ A comprehensive and authoritative language resource covering more than 200 languages.
Wilton's Word & Phrase Origins: www.wordorigins.org/index.htm The origins of more than 300 English language words and phrases.
www.wordorigins.org/index.htm GRAMMAR, STYLE, USAGE
AskOxford.com: www.askoxford.com/ Website from Oxford University Press designed to assist with queries about the English language. Among the many resources included are a jargon buster, language tips, competititions and crosswords, and articles.
Chicago Manual of Style FAQ: www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/cmosfaq.html "In this column, the manuscript editing department at the University of Chicago Press will be happy to answer your questions, although we cannot guarantee an individual response to each question received."
Figures of Speech: www.unipissing.ca/faculty/williams/figofspe.htm Provides definitions of various figures of speech along with examples from literature. Categories include tropes, metaplasmic figures, figures of omission, repetition, unusual word order, and thought.
Grammar Hotline: www.tc.cc.va.us/writcent/gh/hotlinol.htm"The grammar hotline is a list of phone numbers or E-Mail addresses or Web sites which you can contact for answers to short questions about writing. Tidewater Community College founded one of the first grammar hotlines in the country and publishes an annual compilation of grammar hotlines in the United States and Canada."
Web of Online Grammars:www.yourdictionary.com/grammars.html Links to online grammar pages and language lessons in many languages.
Dictionary of Slang: www.peevish.co.uk/slang/b.htm Slang and colloquialisms used in the United Kingdom.
www.lexfn.com Allows user to search for relationships between words, concepts, and people. It is a combination thesaurus, rhyming dictionary, pun generator, and concept navigator.
Merriam-Websters Collegiate Thesaurus: www.m-w.com/thesaurus.htm Searchable online thesaurus.
Reference Desk: www.refdesk.com "Single best source of facts on the net."
[From Don S. To add to Jeanette's list here's one I use every day, literally]
Reporter's Desktop: www.reporter.org/desktop Helps you find almost anything anywhere.
ORGANIZATIONS FOR WRITERS
American Society of Journalists and Authors
National Association of Science Writers
National Writers Union
Society of Environmental Journalists
Book Marketing Update
Contracts Watch (ASJA newsletter on contract issues)
NASW Just for Freelances
U.S. Copyright Office
Graduate programs in science writing
Santa Fe Science-Writing Workshop