150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster, and More Persuasively
June 12, 2013 | Written by Chip MacGregor
Today we have a guest blog, from Claire Morgan at OEDB…
It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a professional writer: there’s always something new to learn and ways to make your writing more refined, better researched, and more effective. Writing is essential for students who want to succeed, whether they’re enrolled in one of the top online colleges or an Ivy League university. As essential as it is, learning to write well isn’t easy. The best practices for writing and research can sometimes be subjective, and the finer points of syntax and style often take a backseat to looming deadlines and strict citation guidelines.
Luckily, there are many helpful resources that make it easier to build on your existing skills while
learning new ones. We’ve compiled links to sites dedicated to helping students, bloggers, and professional writers improve their techniques while also becoming better editors and researchers. Browse through the following list or focus on categories you need most. It’s organized by subject and resources are listed alphabetically within. With more than 150 resources to chose from, you’re bound to find something that can make your writing life a little easier.
These blogs can help you learn more about the profession of writing, brush up your skills, and even see what it takes to get a book published.
- Copyblogger: On Copyblogger, Brian Clark offers tips on how to improve the content, marketing, and business of a blog. A must for any writer hoping to gain readership in the digital sphere.
- The Creative Penn: Joanna Penn offers up her insights on writing, publishing, and book marketing on this useful blog.
- Evil Editor: Learn what not to do when submitting your work to an editor through this entertaining blog.
- Fiction Writing: This About.com blog is a great place to get some basics insights on how to write better fiction.
- Harriet the Blog: The Poetry Foundation maintains this blog, full of great reviews, news, and information about the poetic community.
- Jeff Goins Writer: Check out Jeff Goins’ regularly updated blog or download his free ebook, The Writer’s Manifesto, on this site.
- Problogger: If you’re looking to turn blogging into a career, this blog is a must-read, offering advice on everything from branding to building better content.
- Write to Done: This blog is home to hundreds of articles, all on writing, that can help you improve your skills at things like comedic writing, finding inspiration, and more.
- Writer Unboxed: Focusing on the craft and business of fiction, Writer Unboxed features numerous monthly contributors who share their own insights to the professional field.
- The Writers Alley: Lacking in inspiration? Pay this site a visit for a little lift, helping you stay on track with whatever you’re working on.
- Writer’s Digest: Learn how to improve your writing, find and agent, and even get published with the help of the varied blogs on this site.
Business and Legal Matters
These tools can help you to create a freelance writing business, get you through assignments in the best online business programs, or just protect yourself should you decide to publish.
- Copyscape: Use this free service to learn if anyone has plagiarized your work.
- Creative Commons: Creative Commons provides free tools that let you easily mark your creative work with the freedoms you want it to carry.
- Intellectual Property Law: This list for online resources that focus on intellectual property will keep you busy for weeks. Some items focus on Canada, some on the U.S., and some on international law.
- Legal Guide for Bloggers: Here, The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a summary of U.S. copyright laws as they apply to blogging.
- Performancing: This blog provides information that can help turn your blog into the prime marketing tool you need for your writing business.
- Preditors and Editors: Save time and money by avoiding the common publishing scams featured on this site.
- U.S. Copyright Office: Your writing is copyrighted the minute you’ve put it in a tangible form, but if you want further protection for your work you can register it here for a fee. The FAQ is free, however, and it’s the best tutorial around on copyright.
- Writers & Artists: This “insider guide to the media” offers industry advice for writers and articles through articles, interviews, competitions, and in an online community.
Citation and Style Guides
These guides will help ensure you stick to certain styles when writing and correctly cite your sources.
- APA Style: On the APA Style blog, you can get access to the fundamentals of American Psychological Association style, updates on specific style elements, and find loads of other reference material.
- Associated Press Style: If you’re working on a journalistic piece, you’ll need to use AP style. Learn the fundamentals from this guidebook on OWL.
- Brief Guide to Citing Government Publications: This guide provides examples of the most common government document citations. These examples are based on the Chicago/Turabian standard bibliographic style.
- The Chicago Manual of Style Online: The Chicago Manual of Style’s website includes an online forum, guidelines for basic rules, and even creates quick citations.
- Citing Sources: Learn how and why to cite your sources in this helpful guide from Duke University Library.
- Comic Art in Scholarly Writing: A Citation Guide: The serious scholarly analysis of comic art needs an equally serious way to cite that material. This is the scholar’s pop art guide to citation.
- The Economist Style Guide: Want to write for The Economist? Whether you do or not, these are some solid style rules for any journalistic writing.
- The Elements of Style: This classic book by Strunk and White is offered up in its entirety on Bartleby.com so you can improve your writing without spending a dime.
- Footnote and Citation Style Guides: You’ll find a vast array of citation styles for business, education, engineering, science, and social science from this useful resource compiled by Lehigh University.
- How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: This site will help you compile a bibliography when you’re ready to pull all those citations together.
- MLA Style: Not sure how to cite something correctly in MLA style? Use this online handbook to get started on doing things the right way.
- Turabian Quick Guide: Essentially the same as Chicago Style, this documentation system does have a few differences which you can learn about here.
English Language Skills
Everyone, even seasoned writers, can use a little help with their writing and language skills. The following links can help you write anything from a term paper to an article for The New York Times.
- Common Errors in English Usage: Confused about whether to use lie or lay? Use this site as a guide to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes in English usage.
- English Practice: This site can help you practice English grammar and writing, even if you’re a native speaker.
- Grammar Girl: Grammar Girl is one of the most popular grammar sites on the web and is a great place to look for answers to all of your burning questions about proper usage.
- Grammar Handbook: The Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana offers access to this incredibly useful grammar handbook that can ensure you’re getting things right in your writing.
- Guide to Grammar and Style: Written by Jack Lynch, this site provides grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage that Lynch put together for his classes.
- Guide to Grammar and Writing: Choose from several modules that will help you to determine how to structure your writing with this tool created by the Capital Community College Foundation.
- How to Use English Punctuation Correctly: Punctuation can be confusing but on this site you’ll find a cheat sheet that can ensure you use your commas, semicolons, and quotes correctly every time.
- HyperGrammar: The University of Ottawa offers up a one-stop guide for proper spelling, structure, and punctuation on this site.
- The Tongue Untied: Head to this site to find basic instruction on grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation.
These resources can help those who write in certain genres ó from fantasy to technical writing ó find support, help, and ideas for writing.
- The Basics of Technical Writing: MIT professor Nicole Kelley offers students guidelines on how to create technical writing on science and technology topics.
- Children’s Literature Web Guide: David K. Brown from the University of Calgary maintains this list of resources for writers who prefer to pen children’s literature.
- Essays on the Craft of Dramatic Writing: Learn about the craft of writing a novel, screenplay, or play through reviews of popular stories.
- Fasntasy-Writers.org: With news, a directory, writing challenges, and more, this site is a great resource for those who love to craft works of fantasy.
- Poetry.com: Share your poems, get reviews, and win prizes on this fun poetic site.
- Screenwriting.info: This site is an amazing collection of information on screenwriting. It offers up tips on how to write every element of screenplays, information about conferences, courses, and events, and much more.
- Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers: Need some basic tips on keeping your stories short but sweet? This guide from Jerz’s Literacy Weblog can be a big help with step-by-step instructions on the process.
- Textetc.com: Learn more about all forms of poetry, theory, and criticism on this simple but informative site.
Information and Data
These resources can help you to better research a story, offering access to a wide range of data, information, and primary resources.
- Answers.com: Answers.com is an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, and almanac rolled into one.
- Blackfacts.com: Here, writers can find a searchable database of facts related to black history that can be used to start research on a story.
- ePodunk: ePodunk provides in-depth information about more than 46,000 communities in the U.S. through maps, cemetery listings, and even local newspapers.
- FedStats: If you need government stats, this site is a smart place to look. It brings together data from more than 100 government agencies in one easily searchable site.
- GeoHive: For global statistics, consider using this site.
- InfoPlease: InfoPlease combines an encyclopedia, almanac, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, and biography reference.
- Internet Public Library: This online library is full of resources that are free for anyone to use, from newspaper and magazine articles to special collections.
- The Library of Congress: If you’re looking for primary documents and information, the Library of Congress is a great place to start. It has millions of items in its archives, many of which are accessible right from the website.
- NACo: If the information you’re looking for is at the county level, this website is one of the easiest places to begin looking for it, with information on everything from county representatives to local events.
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: This classic almanac offers yearly information on astronomical events, weather conditions and forecasts, recipes, and gardening tips.
- RefDesk: Run a quick fact-check using the reference materials found on this useful all-in-one site.
- State Health Facts: Kaiser Family Foundation provides this database, full of health facts on a state-by-state basis that address everything from medicare to women’s health.
- U.S. Census Bureau: Learn more about the trends and demographics of America with information drawn from the Census Bureau’s online site.
- Wikipedia: While you probably shouldn’t use it as your sole source, Wikipedia can be a great way to get basic information and find out where to look for additional references.
Why visit a single news source when you can save time by gleaning current stories from digests and news roundups? Here are a few worth visiting for a great breaking news fix.
- Alltop: Alltop aggregates news and blog posts from hundreds of sites. To narrow things down, you can pick a topic and get updates catered towards a specific area of interest.
- Free Press: Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization that provides news about the media from a “democratic” perspective.
- Memeorandum: This site aggregates top news stories in politics and related issues as they happen.
- Popurls: Head to Popurls to get links to some of the day’s most popular news stories.
- TechMeme: Get frequent updates on the latest stories in technology with the help of this site.
- WeSmirch.com: Even gossip writers need a good place to find out about the latest dirt. This site is a great place to start.
These resources can help you learn more about what being an journalist in the modern age means, with some even focusing specifically on new media research and writing.
- The Center for Public Integrity: Founded in 1989, this organization aims to reveal abuses of power, corruption, and betrayals of trust by politicians and private entities. Their website is a great place to keep up with some of the best investigative journalism.
- CyberJournalist.net: If you’re drawn towards writing for the web, then make sure to bookmark this site to learn more about how to stay on top of innovations in media.
- Investigative Reporters & Editors: Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. provides educational services to reporters, editors and others interested in investigative journalism and works to maintain high professional standards.
- Journalism.org: The Project for Excellence in Journalism is a research organization that specializes in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press.
- NAA.org: The Newspaper Association of America is a good place to look for more information about the current status of print journalism in the U.S., and to see a glimpse as where media is headed in the future.
- The Readership Institute: A division of the Media Management Center at Northwestern, The Readership Institute addresses research on how media can build readership, improve training for writers, and develop best practices for the journalism industry.
- State of the News Media: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism releases a new report on American journalism each year. Check out last year’s edition for insights into the future of the field and innovations that are changing it today.
One of the best ways to supercharge your writing is to stay organized. These tools, most of them free, let you do that with ease.
- A.nnotate: This helpful tool allows you to leave notes for yourself about a resource online, so you’ll see them each time you return to the site.
- Bubbl.us: A great mind-mapping tool, Bubbl.us can give you a leg up on organizing your thoughts and laying out a story.
- Central Desktop: Central Desktop provides simple project collaboration tools for business teams so they can organize and share information efficiently, communicate with others, and collaborate on projects.
- Dropbox: Store and share your writing online so that it will be accessible to you from anywhere, even on your phone or mobile device.
- Evernote: Evernote lets you capture photos, articles, and even music you like, storing it and organizing it for you so you can easily reference it later.
- Google Drive: Google has created a tool that makes it easy to keep your documents, spreadsheets, and other materials stored and organized online.
- Memonic: With Memonic, you can take notes and clip web content, take this data with you or print it out, and share it with others who might find it interesting as well.
- MindMeister: Another mind mapping tool, MindMeister makes it easier to see just where your story is headed.
- Zoho Creator: If you’re doing intensive research for a project, creating a database can be immensely useful. ZohoCreator lets you do just that, with an easy drag-and-drop interface.
- Zotero: Collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources right on your browser with Zotero.
Whether you’re a professional writer or a student planning to be one, professional organizations can provide useful resources, support, and information that can make you a better, more successful writer.
- ASNE: The American Society of Newspaper Editors is a membership organization for editors and those who work with editors, but any writer, aspiring editor, or others interested in what they do can get in touch for help, guidance or information.
- American Society for the History of Rhetoric: Founded in 1877, this group helps to foster the study of rhetoric throughout history, both in America and abroad.
- The Authors Guild: All writers should consider joining this professional guild focused on helping authors get copyright protection, fair contracts, and the right to free expression.
- Mystery Writers of America: MWA is a great organization for crime writers, fans of the genre, and aspiring writers alike.
- National Writers Union: The NWU is the trade union for freelance and contract writers, journalists, book authors, business and technical writers, web content providers, and poets.
- Online News Association: Founded in 1999, this organization is open to any journalist who produces news on the internet or in a digital platform.
- Romance Writers of America: Those with a passion for romance writing should seriously consider looking to this group for resources, advocacy, and professional networking.
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America: Likewise, those who focus on the science fiction and fantasy genre will benefit from connecting with SFWA’s more than 1,500 members.
- Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators: If you write, illustrate, or have an interest in children’s literature, this is the place to turn for help and services related to your work.
- Society for Technical Communication: Technical writers will appreciate the professional resources offered by this organization, from recent publications to jobs to courses.
Solid rhetoric and persuasive writing skills can help any kind of writing be more effective. Here are just a few resources that can help you build your abilities.
- American Rhetoric: Hear some of the most memorable and celebrated example of public speaking in history though the online speech bank on this site.
- Bibliographies in Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: If you’re looking for some great reads on rhetoric, look no further than this list of bibliographies on the subject.
- Read Write Think: Persuasive Writing: Here, you’ll get access to a strategy guide that can help you become a more persuasive writer.
- The Forest of Rhetoric: Dr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University provides this guide to terms from Classical and Renaissance rhetoric.
- Rhetorica: Visit this blog for analysis and commentary on the modern rhetoric found in journalism, politics, and culture at large.
- Rhetoic: A Timeline: Confused about which, Aristotle or Cicero, came first? Don’t know if Augustine is considered part of Antiquity or the Middle Ages? Fear no more – this timeline will answer your questions.
- Rhetoric and Composition: This site is loaded with rhetoric resources, including bibliographies, journals, reference material, and blogs.
- Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques: You can go wrong when you use any of the classic persuasive writing techniques laid out in this Copyblogger post.
The following tools include everything from word counters to image databases and can help improve the speed and content of your writing.
- Autocrit: AutoCrit automatically identifies weak words and structures in your writing so you can clean it up.
- Creativity Portal Prompts: Can’t think of anything to write about? This site provides useful prompts that can help get your creative juices flowing.
- JournalistExpress: If you can’t remember the name of a specific newspaper or the name of a site you need, head to Journalist Express to get help with the answer.
- MorgueFile: If you’re looking for a free image to use with an article or a blog post, look to this site for photography that’s free to use, with attribution to the artist, of course.
- Resources for Technical Writers: Those pursuing a career in technical writing can find all kinds of useful resources and tools for both writing and career building here.
- Statistics Every Writer Should Know: This site is billed as, “A simple guide to understanding basic statistics, for journalists and other writers who might not know math.”
- Unstuck: Writer’s block can really destroy your productivity. Battle through it with this downloadable app that will help you get past any problem you’re facing.
- Wordcounter: This program is much more than a basic word counter. Instead of just counting the number of words, it also pulls out words that you’re using too frequently, helping you add variety and interest to your work. Try running things through Cliche Finder, too, to weed out any other phrases you might want to avoid.
- Writing Room: Get support from writers, writing guides, expert advice, and more on this great community site for writers.
Thinking of a word but can’t pinpoint what it is? These resources offer help with spelling, definitions, synonyms, rhyming, and more.
- Acronym Finder: With more than 565,000 human-edited entries, Acronym Finder is the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initials.
- Arts & Humanities Dictionary: Through this dictionary, you can find the definition of hundreds of terms related to the arts and humanities.
- Dictionary.com: Use a dictionary or thesaurus, translate words, or look up quotes and other information on this multi-purpose site.
- Glossary of Poetic Terms: If you’re ever unclear on the meaning of a poetic term, head to this glossary from McGraw-Hill for some illumination.
- MediLexicon: MediLexicon is a comprehensive dictionary of medical, pharmaceutical, biomedical, and health care abbreviations and acronyms.
- OneLook Dictionary: More than 5 million words in more than 900 online dictionaries are indexed by the OneLook search engine so you can find, define, and translate words all at one site.
- RhymeZone: Whether you’re writing poetry, songs, or something else entirely, you can get help rhyming words with this site.
- Symbols.com: Want to use symbolism in your writing or analyze it in a famous work? Symbols.com can help, with more than 1,600 articles about thousands of signs from Western cultural history.
- TechTerms.com: If you’re not a tech professional, chances are that you might find yourself more than a little confused about certain terms. Don’t be. Just look them up in this dictionary.
- Urban Dictionary: Keep up with the latest slang with Urban Dictionary, where you can look up the meaning of hundreds of words you won’t find in the regular dictionary.
- Your Dictionary Your Dictionary provides access to a dictionary, thesaurus, word etymology and much more.
If you need a little help with editing and revising your work, consider these sources for some perspective and guidance.
- Academic Edit: Academic Edit specializes in editing scholarly documents such as theses, dissertations, and Ph.D. statements, but they also branch out into resumes and technical reports.
- EditAvenue: At EditAvenue, you can choose an editor to look over your work based on a wide range of criteria.
- Editing and Writing Services: The name says it all. This company can help you refine your work, especially if its for business or online.
- Editor World: Get help turning a rough draft into a finished product from this professional proofreading and editing service.
- Editorial Freelancers Association: Those in the market for an editor should check out this organization for freelance editors, writers, indexers, proofreaders, researchers, publishers, and translators. You can even post your job on the site to find help.
- FirstWriter.com: This site offers a wide range of services from editing work to getting in touch with literary agents.
- The Penn Group: Whether you’re looking for a complete rewrite or just a little perspective on your draft, this writing service has resources to help.
Writing Skills Help
Whether you’re writing a term paper or a book, these links can help you streamline and improve your research and writing.
- 50 Tools to Increase Your Writing Skills: You’ll find some amazingly useful links here that can ensure you’re writing to your full potential.
- Final Year Projects: Mike Hart’s site offers practical sources of advice to help students successfully write a final year project, dissertation, or thesis.
- A Guide to Writing Well: Joshua Sowin offers a great guide to writing well distilled from the information in The Elements of Style.
- How to Organize Your Thesis: Professor John Chinneck from Carleton University explains how to properly organize a graduate thesis from start to finish.
- How to Write a Better Weblog: Written by Dennis A. Mahoney for A List Apart, this article explains some of the things you should and shouldn’t do if you want to write a great blog.
- Poynter Online Courses: Poynter offers some great online courses that writers, especially journalists, can use to hone their craft.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: The Online Writing Guide offered by Purdue University is home to handouts and exercises on topics like effective writing, revising, editing, and proofreading, as well as other genre-specific resources.
- Mind Tools Writing Skills: This basic review of what makes for good writing can be a great reminder to those who are caught up in the process.
These tools can help writers pen their latest work from almost anywhere, with some boasting features that make it easier to concentrate, organize ideas, and share work as well.
- Blogger: This popular Google-owned site is a great place to start your own blog for free.
- Scrivener: This popular, feature-rich program is great for organizing research, planning drafts, and writing novels, articles, short stories, and even screenplays.
- The Literary Machine: This free software allows writers to compile research and writing modules that makes it easier to draw on information collected during research to write an outline or a final draft.
- New Novelist: Created for Windows users, this program is specifically designed to meet the needs of novelists, making it possible to juggle ideas, notes, and more in one place.
- Open Office: Why pay for Microsoft products when you can create free documents with Open Office? This open source software provides similar tools to the Microsoft Office Suite, including spreadsheets, a word processor, the ability to create multimedia presentations, and more.
- Script Frenzy: Scriptwriters will appreciate this software. It offers an easy layout that helps outline plots as well as providing storyboard features, index cards, and even sound and photo integration.
- Storybook: This open source software can make it easier to manage your plotlines, characters, data, and other critical information while penning a novel.
- TreePad Lite: The free version of this software keeps the writing process simple, ensuring that information stay organized and your story stays on track.
- WordPress: WordPress is another popular and free choice for starting a blog (or two).
- Writer’s Cafe: Get creative with writing fiction with this easy-to-use software. Designed by a writer, it features a notebook, journal, organizer, writing tips, and even an e-book all about writing.
- yWriter5: Another word processor for writers, yWriter5 helps break down a novel into chapters and scenes to make everything a little more manageable.
- ZohoDocs: Zoho is another free word processing suite, and like Google Drive, it allows you to write and access your work from any computer with an Internet connection.
You can visit Claire’s blog at http://oedb.org/library/features/150-writing-resources/