Tip of the Week
Like the semicolon, the colon joins in one sentence two ideas or elements that might be expressed in separate sentences, strengthening the bond. The second elements are often definitions, elaborations, or embellishments. Here’s an example from The Economist’s "The day after Super Tuesday":
He [Barack Obama] also snatched two prizes on the coast: tiny Delaware and, more symbolically, Connecticut.
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Grammar and usage
Word origins, word play
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Discussion lists and newsgroups
Grammar and usage
First, the classics: William Strunk's The Elements of Style (1918, pre–E.B. White); H.L. Mencken's The American Language (1921); and H.W. Fowler's The King's English (1908) — all available in their entirety online.
Columbia Journalism Review Language Corner For usage advice with professional flair, there’s little better than Evan Jenkin’s semimonthly column.
Daniel Kies’ Modern English Grammar If ever you need to find out more about auxiliary progressive verb phrases and the like, this page is a good place to start.
Dr. Charles Darling’s Guide to Grammar and Writing Dr. Darling’s guide offers quick answers to often-confused points of grammar, such as when to capitalize phrases following a colon. And the 170 quizzes can show you if you know as much about grammar as you think.
Garbl’s Myths and Superstitions about Writing Many usage “rules” aren’t rules at all. For years writing authorities have proclaimed as baseless such maxims as “Never split an infinitive” and “Never end a sentence with a preposition.” Even so, myths persist.
Grammar Bytes First prize for a great site name—and for interactivity and humor—goes to Robin Simmons's energetic site. Lively if sometimes simplistic exercises are accompanied by thorough explanations, tip sheets, and handouts.
Guide to Grammar and Style The alphabetical organization of Jack Lynch's otherwise appealingly discursive guide creates some odd alphabedfellows ("dash, data, definite article"; "shall, sic, slashes").
Online English Grammar Anthony Hughes's online grammar has the adult learner of English in mind. 120 topics are illustrated with ingenious and often surprising examples.
Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Not for writers inclined to follow liberal usage, Professor Brians catalogs hundreds of frequently misused expression. His collection includes such classics of wrong usage as confusing ensure and insure and more idiosyncratic hobgoblins, such as the phrase koala bear: “A koala is not a bear. People who know their marsupials refer to them simply as ‘koalas.’” Follow Professor Brians’ advice to avoid the scorn of people who know their marsupials.
Purdue's Online Writing Lab The grammar, spelling, and punctuation section of Purdue's Online Writing Lab is organized accessibly in outline form under categories such as "parts of speech" and "sentence construction." The site offers dozens of handouts used in the lab, though we disagree with some of the specifics. Their handout, “Conciseness: Methods of Eliminating Wordiness,” could make a better effort to practice what it preaches in its title.
Sharp Points Written by the Washington Post’s copy chief for the national desk, this blog reproaches careless writers and pedantic editors with equal vitriol.
The Tongue Untied Conceived as a study aid for aspiring journalism majors at the University of Oregon, this website instructs students on grammar, punctuation and style (following the Associated Press, of course). Especially valuable are the many quizzes, which make sure that you do, in fact, know a coordinating conjunction from a subordinating one and when politics is used as a singular or a plural noun.
alt.usage.english The website of this newsgroup features collections of FAQ files on usage disputes, word origins, and phrase origins.
American Heritage Book of English Usage (1996) Sections on style (parallelism, passives, wordiness, redundancy), word choice (308 problem words), and gender, plus a rapidly aging essay on the hazards of email and more than you ever wanted to know about emoticons.
APA Citation Style To be frank, APA citation style isn’t the favorite of anyone here at ClearWriter. But if you must use it, it’s far better to use it correctly. This guide from Nova Southeastern University is a helpful reference for those who don’t want to pay $30 for the APA Publications Manual.
APA Electronic Reference Formats Answers to commonly asked questions on citing electronic sources, from the 5th edition of the APA Style Manual. A brave attempt to codify evolving usage.
The Economist Style Guide Seldom is stylistic advice as welcome as when delivered with sharp British wit. Note, however, that it follows British style.
Government Printing Office Style Manual 2000 The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style Guide aren't available online, alas, but the GPO manual is available in both HTML and PDF formats. In addition to copious arcana from the days of hot lead, the GPO manual devotes an exhaustive chapter to the geographic divisions of U.S. territory.
MLA Formatting and Style Guide This useful quick reference for MLA citation style includes formats for troublesome online resources.
Turabian (Chicago) Citation Style A quick reference sheet to Kate Turabian’s guide to Chicago citation style, this website should address most questions for compiling a basic Chicago-style bibliography.
Web Style Guide (1999) Patrick Lynch and Sarah Horton's Web Style Guide contains excellent advice on preparing text for the Web. New edition on the way.
Writing with Sources Harvard's student guide to documenting sources contains a section on formatting references that compares MLA, APA, and several other common styles.
Cambridge Dictionaries Five are online, including the Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Phrasal?
Dictionary.com Dictionaries, plus a store, language forum, ask the expert, and index of writing resources.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary The online version gives you everything the printed volume does, plus it will pronounce your word and link you to sites where it's used. Merriam-Webster is the dictionary of choice for countless editors. It’s the best way to resolve questions about spelling, meaning, and usage.
OED Online If you've got $550 handy, subscribe and watch the ongoing revision of the world's largest dictionary. Etymologies, pronunciation, quotations, and spelling variations can be toggled on and off.
yourDictionary.com With 1,800 dictionaries in 250 languages, yourDictionary has a credible claim to being "the language portal of record." You can check the spelling of "supersede," but if you need a Breton or Chamorro grammar, they're there, too.
Babylon.com Browse through thousands of glossaries. Build your own specialized multilingual glossaries for business and professional use or download what you need from the site. The site also does quick multilingual translations of single terms.
Babelfish Translations Hours of fun running texts back and forth through the translating machine. Try forcing a paragraph from Finnegan's Wake into Korean and back again. Hey, now it makes sense!
FreeTranslation.com Free, yes, but the popup ads fly thick and fast. Sometimes too busy to translate for you.
SYSTRANet Translation Technologies Improve translation accuracy by using one of 21 subject-specific dictionaries. Enterprise language solutions, including website translation.
Word origins, word play
Banned for Life Few things draw the ire of editors more quickly than clichés. Tom Mangan nominates phrases to be banned.
Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day With definitions for nearly 300,000 words, the Oxford English dictionary is a stunning repository of useful (and useless) knowledge. Their Word of the Day offers a preview for those who don’t want to pay the $300 price for full access.
Take Our Word for It "The weekly word-origin Web-zine," including an "etymology book store."
The Word Detective Online version of Evan Morris's witty newspaper column.
Wordorigins.org The highlight of the site is a lively, well-organized discussion forum.
World Wide Words For those tickled by word trivia, Michael Quinion details the origin of words as diverse as macholation (an opening between supports on a castle parapet for dropping missiles on an enemy) and McJob (low-paying, dead-end work).
Search engines for editors and writers
Britannica.com Quick, encyclopedic access to articles, related maps, illustrations. Index feature gives you quick access to related content. Free, but the popups swarm like gnats. Subscription site (www.eb.com) is gnat-free.
Library of Congress Online Catalog That's right, the entire catalog is online. Amazing depth and scope, plus great advice on effective searching.
LibrarySpot.com Quick access to libraries of all stripes (academic, film, law, government) and a reference desk with everything from acronyms to zip codes. Plus lists, shortcuts, FAQs, news—all compiled with the perspective and acuity of a reference librarian.
Refdesk.com An effort—promethean and quixotic—to present links to everything you might conceivably need to know. The alphabetization emphasizes the heterogeneity. The best stuff's below the fold.
Power tools for writing
Abbreviations.com The next time you have to work with government documents or other writing larded with obscure acronyms, Abbreviations.com can help unwind ambiguous terms.
ClearInk SpellWeb Can't decide between alternative spellings of "e-mail"? Turn style into a popularity contest by seeing how words are spelled on the Web.
Copyrights >From the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress Information System, learn how to search records for materials registered for copyright since January 1978.
A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices Whatever you want to say, it’s likely that someone has discovered a cleaver way of saying it. And it probably has a Greek name. So if you can’t tell your analepsis from your hypophora, you might want to browse this guide—or perhaps visit a doctor.
Invisible Web Revealed Find out how to locate Web material that conventional search engines are blind to. Also see Gary Price's direct search [http://www.freepint.com/gary/direct.htm], which provides links to the search interfaces of resources that contain data not easily or entirely searchable using general Web search tools.
Online Conversion Distance, weight, temperature—yeah, yeah, we know. But torque, viscosity, and flow rate? Hey, these are serious conversions. Also Morse code, download times, and other exotica.
Plagiarism Learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it—and detect it—in this collection of articles.
Questia Student subscribers "write in the margins" or highlight their personal online copies of Questia's full-text library. The tool automatically creates footnotes and reference lists conforming to APA, MLA, and other popular styles.
RhymeZone Rhyming Dictionary and Thesausus This rhyming dictionary organizes results by syllable or alphabetically. If you’ve never considered rhyming prayer with Asiatic black bear, it might prove useful in your poetic endeavors. We’d discourage you, however, from using this tool to compose your next interoffice memo in rhyming couplets.
Statistics Help for Journalists Often cited to support arguments, statistics are used to conceal and mislead as often as to clarify and explain. Learn the basics so that you won’t be duped.
ThinkExist.com This website boasts a searchable collection of more than 300,000 quotations by 20,000 authors, indexed by topic, keyword, and author. Never have so many pithy sayings been gathered in one place.
Trademarks Search for trademarks at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Turnitin.com Generates color-coded "originality reports" after comparing submitted text to internet sources and a growing database of student papers. Coming: an online grading system!
Lists of links on writing, editing, publishing
Alt.usage.English Language Resources Hundreds, nay thousands, of links.
Garbl’s Fat-free-writing Links If there’s one topic worth addressing at length, it’s brevity. Garbl’s page does admirably, offering links to nearly 30 websites with techniques for cutting the fat from your writing. Or you could just complete our online training.
Purdue Online Writing Lab Links page of a leading academic writing center.
Contentious Amy Gahran�s news and musings on how we communicate in the online age. A one-woman show, and a good one.
The Editorial Eye A publication of EEI Communications, The Editorial Eye is a monthly newsletter for writers, editors, and anyone else in communications and publishing.
Fathom Rarefied online forums, courses, lectures. A cast of thousands.
Plain Language Network Volunteer civil servants who aim to improve communication from the federal government to the people. Resources include before-and-after samples of forms, memos, regulations.
Scriptorium "A virtual room for writers." Cozy.
Thesis/Dissertation Guide Writing a thesis or dissertation is a challenge—intellectually, organizationally, emotionally. But learning about the process can help you manage it better.
Travelwriters.com Business-like site for buying and selling travel writing.
Wooden Horse Publishing "Market facts for writers." Comprehensive and very well organized.
Worldwide Freelance Writer Writing is great. Getting paid for it is better. Worldwide Freelance Writer offers resources for those inclined to strike out on their own.
Writers Write News, jobs, reviews, events—for and about writers.
Writer's Digest The online version of the magazine about writers' markets.
Writers.Net Find an agent, find an editor, find a publisher, commiserate.
Writing That Works For people who "write, edit and manage business communications for a living." Online version of print newsletter.
Discussion lists and newsgroups
ADS-L An e-mail discussion list on the dialects of North American English, operated by the American Dialect Society.
Alt.usage.English A newsgroup on the English language.
Copyediting-L A very busy list for professional parsers of verbal fine points.
dcpubs In the Washington, D.C., area dcpubs extends its scope to design and production issues, as well as editing.
Bibliomania The full text of 800 classics, plus study guides, summaries, and a shop.
Bartleby.com Full-text editions of such works as the Oxford Shakespeare, Strunk’s original 1918 Elements of Style, and the King James Bible are highlights of this electronic repository of public domain books. Those looking for a guide to wireless networking will find little to interest them, but if you want the classics, this is the place to find them—free.
Electronic Text Center Over a recent nine-month period, the center, located at the University of Virginia, "shipped" 2.5 million e-books, an average of 9,259 each day.
Project Gutenberg Recruits volunteers to create e-texts from their favorite public domain works. The project publishes a new work every day.