If you write for the web, you know how much there is to manage on a daily basis. Not only are you functioning like a journalist, with deadlines and multiple projects to handle, you have to consider user experience, SEO, and a host of other issues. To help you out, I’ve gathered five of the most basic online tools I find myself using over and over again to make writing easier. From grammar to spelling to word choice, these sites really come in handy.
1. Grammar Girl. Feel like it’s been awhile since you’ve had to worry about punctuation and the proper use of who versus whom? If the answer is yes, don’t feel ashamed. I don’t know many online writers who dreamt of blogging when they were little and went on to get a degree in English. You may never have planned on a career that involved an extensive knowledge of the written word, yet here you are. That said, sloppy grammar on social media, blogs, or in any online communication isn’t good, even though the tone may be more fun and relaxed. If you feel nervous about something, Grammar Girl is a great place to double check. There is a wealth of knowledge on everything from when and how to use punctuation to commonly misused words like affect versus effect. If you want to get technical, there is information on rules like using present and past tense and first, second, and third conditionals. The explanations are engaging, and often focus more on writing well than bogging the user down with confusing rules to think about. The Grammar Girl Facebook and Twitter accounts are also handy and fun to follow. They post tips and offer advice for issues you might be facing right now, like the proper capitalization of a current event or holiday.
2. The Associated Press Stylebook. If you work for a large organization, you may have a stylebook of your own that dictates the rules of writing. If you are on your own to create a uniform style for your organization, the AP Stylebook is a great resource to use. There are tons rules that can help make sure you consistently write abbreviations, addresses, dates, titles, numbers, proper nouns and more correctly. To get the full site with all of its information, you will have to pay. Once you have purchased, the site can be used on your computer, tablet and smartphone. For an abbreviated version that mostly deals with current events and holidays, you can follow AP Stylebook on Twitter.
3. University Websites. If you aren’t having much luck convincing your boss that a subscription to the AP Stylebook is necessary, university websites can be a great second choice. Many English and journalism departments provide a list of the most needed AP rules. I like what Purdue University has to offer, but you may find another resource that suits you better. Keep in mind that these resources may not always reflect the most recent style updates, and that they may reflect the rules the school itself is using in their publications.
4. & 5. Dictonary.com and Thesaurus.com. You can’t beat a classic, and these two sites can really come in handy. Dictonary.com is especially helpful if you work with clients in a technical industry, and frequently run into words you are unfamiliar with. For example, I have worked with clients in the insurance industry and many of their terms were unfamiliar to me, or have a different meaning to those in insurance than to the average person. Dictionary.com gave me a way to quickly check that what I was writing made sense, and helped me avoid the embarrassment of misusing a word. Thesaurus.com is great when you are feeling a little creatively dry. If you feel like your writing is getting a little boring, or find yourself using the same words over and over again, Thesaurus.com can get you over the hump and open you up to more interesting and engaging writing.
Those are the five I tend to come back to, if you have tools that help you write like a pro, leave them in the comments below!