Achieve Better Writing with These Essential Writing Resources

writing resources

Valuable writing resources.

If you want to improve your writing, you’re going to have to work at it, because let’s face it, nobody gets by on sheer talent. You’ll need to acquire good writing habits and solid writing skills.

The best way to consistently improve your writing is through daily writing. When writing becomes part of the natural rhythm of your life, your work will improve in leaps and bounds.

Some actions you take to make your writing better may not involve writing at all. For example, you should become an avid reader so you can absorb language, turns of phrase, imagery, and story elements that were crafted by skilled and successful writers who have gone before you.

Another non-writing activity that leads to better writing is collecting and employing plenty of useful writing resources.

Writing Resources

Where would we writers be without our writing resources? Fat, hardbound reference books and web-based databases packed to the hilt with facts and information are both bane and boon for us. Love them or hate them, one thing is certain–if you’re a writer, you need them.


1. Dictionary

There are some resources that we all use–the dictionary, for example. What writer doesn’t have that bible of the language sitting within reach on a nearby bookshelf or conveniently bookmarked in a web browser?

If you’ve ever caught yourself using a word only to realize you’re not sure whether you’re using it correctly, you know what a lifesaver the dictionary can be. In a situation like that, you have three choices: use another word, look up the word to verify its meaning, or take your chances and pray for the best.

Every time you open the dictionary, you’re adding something to your vocabulary. You might be learning a brand new word, verifying what you thought you knew, or simply gaining greater understanding of a word’s meaning. You’ll also build your vocabulary by making good use of the dictionary’s close cousin, the thesaurus.

2. Thesaurus

When you’re proofreading and realize that you’ve repeated one word three times in a single paragraph, there’s no need to break your brain trying to come up with synonyms. Just take a peek inside any thesaurus to find alternatives that will keep your writing fresh.

Writing resources like dictionaries and thesauri help speed up the writing process, and using them will expand your vocabulary.

The result? Better writing.

3. Style Guides

I’ve sung the praises of style guides more than once on this blog. Style guides exist to help you craft material that is consistent in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

As comprehensive as the English language might be, there are plenty of holes where the rules are unclear or don’t exist at all. Style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style set forth standards that you can adhere to and also address many grammatical issues and rules.

There are a host of style guides available and you should start collecting them immediately. The style guides you choose will depend on what you write. Chicago is for authors and general usage; I use it in my copywriting and coaching work and on this blog. There are other guides that are geared specifically toward journalism or academic writing, and many large companies and organizations have their own style guidelines. For more information and a detailed description of style guides, check out this post on style guides.

Better Writing Resources

As you build a collection of writing resources, much credence will be given to books that are packed with facts and information. These writing resources are the foundation and structure of your reference base, and they will all lead to better writing, but what about the fun the stuff, the writing resources that are a delight to peruse and a joy to use?

For example, books filled with prompts, activities, and creative writing exercises will stretch your limitations and give you fresh writing ideas. Lots of novice writers forgo these types of writing resources in favor of writing what they want, but the gains to be made by working through writing exercises and other creative challenges are immense and will surely pave the way toward better writing.

In fact, for those of us who aspire to becoming published poets and fiction writers, these creative writing resources may become the most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Make it a point to start building your own pile of such books.

Writing Resources are a Treat

If you’re truly passionate about writing, then you’ve probably already starting building your own library of writing resources. When you see a book on writing from one of your favorite authors, you snatch it and can’t wait to start reading. In the bookstore, you always check to see what’s new in the section where they stock writing resources, and every time you pull your dictionary off the shelf, your heart does a little leap for joy.

Writing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of self-discipline. Plus, the world of writing is competitive. You can position yourself to put out better writing by educating yourself with a collection of writing resources like those we’ve discussed here, plus plenty of others that deal with specialized fields (technical writing, copywriting, fiction writing, poetry, screenwriting, etc.) and reference books that provide hard facts so your work is well researched and accurate.

Have a little fun with your writing resources, and treat yourself to one or two new ones each month until you have a fully-stocked library of such works, which will contribute to improving your writing. Looking for recommendations? Visit the Writing Forward writing resources page, where you’ll find a list of excellent resources, including written reviews (I’ve personally read and recommend all of them).

Do you have any favorite writing resources? How have they helped you produce better writing? Share your favorites and your experiences by leaving a comment.

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

20 Responses to “Achieve Better Writing with These Essential Writing Resources”

  1. Deb says:

    I definitely agree. I have quite a tidy little writer’s bookshelf if I do say so myself.

    However not all are created equal, especially as they age, and recently I purged a few that were just too moldy like “The Handbook of Technical Writing” (1972) for one but it wasn’t alone in the discard bin.

  2. --Deb says:

    My only regret is that my paper copies of resources (like dictionaries) are at the far end of the house from my bedroom and so not exactly convenient for reference … so, thank heavens for dictionary.com!

  3. Wendi Kelly says:

    ug….where’s my poetry :)

    I have a whole bookshelf of this stuff. Bought it when I worked in the cubicle. Part of my job was proofreading other people’s work and editing it.
    Kind of funny because I am dyslexic and it was NOT what I was hired to do, but it got added on to my duties. ( ten guesses why I don’t work there anymore?)
    Let’s see, quick glance at the shelf in front of me, AP style guide, Chicago, franklin covey, actually that one is interesting, and dictionaries and a large assortment of grammar books, which I need and sometimes ignore. I hate that d@#%4@%$ semi colon so much that I could…well, never mind.

  4. @Deb (gscottage), I know! I have to go through my insane collection of books about twice a year to downsize. At one point, I had about 20 plastic bins full of books piled up in storage. I still wish I hadn’t given away my MLA Handbook though ;)

    @Deb (Punctuality), I keep my paper books upstairs whereas my computer is downstairs in my home office. It actually works well, because when I’m writing on the computer, I can bring up an online resource, but when I’m in my room reading or writing in my notebooks, I have the paper books to turn to, which sure beats making the long trek downstairs to look up a word ;)

    @Wendi, Heheh, we’ll get back to poetry in the next post, I promise! I need to add the AP Stylebook to my collection one of these days, but next on my list is The Gregg Reference Manual. Someone recommended that as a great source for grammar. If you have any other suggestions, I’m all ears… er… eyes.

  5. Greer says:

    My Christmas present to myself this past year was the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2 volumes), and I love it so much. It comes with a CD-ROM too, which is very nice. Of course, it still isn’t as fabulous as the full 20 volume set, but that is just slightly out of my budget :) .

    You’ve convinced me to get the Chicago Manual of Style.

  6. Hi Greer, Before I got Chicago, I pretty much looked up grammar and style questions on the Web. But once I started freelancing, I felt I needed a more credible resource, so I did some research and settled on Chicago. It has been extremely helpful. I’d love a set of fancy dictionaries but I have to confess, for dictionary and thesaurus, I almost exclusively use the Internet ;)

  7. Paula says:

    Yes, Chicago!!! Can’t live without it.

    On my wish list too is the classic Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I can’t believe I don’t have a copy anymore. Maybe “The Borrowers” took it. :)

  8. @Paula, I would be SO lost without Chicago. I recently got a copy of Strunk & White and can’t wait to peruse it. Hopefully sometime this decade… :)

  9. I’m glad I’m not the only write who finds strange words coming from nowhere trying to dive into my writing. Today, I used the word “dearth”. WHERE did THAT come from? My mind pondered, “Does that word mean what I want it to mean?” Wizz over to dictionary.com and tada! Yes, it does! In fact, it’s perfect! We have hidden vocabulary because we absorb so much of the world around us. Just because we KNOW a word, doesn’t mean we know it and it’s always a great idea to check.

    I also stockpile books ABOUT writing (and hoard online resources like Writing Forward, here. ;-) The wonderful thing about being a writer is that we can devour the topic, call it ‘working’, and never grow tired of reading and rereading resources that grow our skills.

  10. @Rebecca, I almost always have dictionary.com open in the background when I’m writing. Sometimes I look up a word even if I know what it means but want to find out if it has other, subtle meanings or connotations. If we didn’t think this stuff was fun, I guess we wouldn’t be writers ;)

  11. Marc says:

    Hmm writing resources.

    Dictionary… Check.
    Thesaurus… Check.
    Avid reader… Check.

    WritingForward.com subscription… Check :)

  12. Style guides are a great one! I need to dig mine up and use them more often!
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..are the people in your life positive? =-.

    • I use Chicago Manual of Style more than any other writing resource. It answers just about every single question that comes up as I’m writing and I just love it. The book is pricey but well worth it! In any case, I’m a big style guide geek. I love them!

  13. There is one book that can turn bland writing into brilliant —

    “30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary” by Wilfred Funk.

    Wayne C. Long
    Writer/Editor/Digital Publisher
    Where the Short Story LIVES!

  14. Laura says:

    Love this site… So many wonderful tips! The best resource I know for emerging writers, though, is to keep a list of writing topics and add to it regularly. Strunk and White will be helpful down the road. Ditto for more powerful vocab. But if you’re a writing newbie, just start keeping a list of things you want to tackle on the page. Then pick a topic and write about it! The more you write, the easier it gets.

    Laura

  15. Morris Graham says:

    I am perplexed about the rule of setting off a short story within a book. OK, I know it should be set in quotation marks, but what happens if it is spoken by a person. See what I mean here…Is the first, second, or neither? Usually double quotation marks are flipped to single within another set.

    “What did the old ‘un do against the stronger young ‘un in “A Piece of Steak?” ”

    “What did the old ‘un do against the stronger young ‘un in ‘A Piece of Steak?’ ”

    Thank you, Morris

    • Your second sentence is correct. We do usually use quotation marks for chapters and articles but whenever we embed quotation marks within quotation marks (including embedded dialogue) the embedded ones become single quotation marks.