Six Writing and Editing Resources

In my line of work, we use several resources to guide our decision-making. These are our tools of the trade, helping us keep things consistent and in order. If you are writing or editing any type of content, I recommend you utilize one or more of these resources and keep your own in-house style sheet (I’ll be posting about that soon).

Here are my top resources for writing and editing:

Stylebooks

The_Chicago_Manual_of_Style_16th_edition1. The Chicago Manual of Style

Here’s the style guide I used at my former job at an independent book publisher. The Chicago Manual of Style is very comprehensive (and thick!). I swear, it answers nearly every question that might come up when you are working on a document. I highly recommend this style guide for books.

Why I love Chicago style:

  • Comprehensive
  • Helpful chapter on punctuation
  • Great advice for notes, references, and bibliographies
  • Informative for beginning editors and writers who are learning about the process

Last year I began using the online version of the guide, making my editing work even more transportable. For just $35.00/month you can have access to the book as a searchable resource — making it easier for you to look up a term, question, or style preference.

51Ejt8rMFaL2. The Associated Press Stylebook

I first used The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook when I worked for my college newspaper. I loved this resource for many reasons at the time, mostly because of its cut-and-dried approach to punctuation, terms, and formatting. Now, I have to admit, my love of the serial comma is strong, so exclusively referring to this style can be difficult (sorry to any of you who love the omission of that last comma in a series!). I recommend this style guide for writing intended for the web, newsletters, and magazines.

Why I love AP style:

  • Definitive
  • Easy-to-use
  • Good style for short-form writing

Make sure you start with the most recent edition of this book to avoid making any style decisions based on previous issues. In our constantly changing world, many of the terms and recommendations will change related to the web and other emerging technologies.

apa-style3. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Of all the style guides, I find this resource the most helpful and the most frustrating. You may be asked to follow this style book (hereafter called APA style) for higher education courses or for professional writing. Its main focuses are avoiding bias in your writing (important!), formatting academic papers (crucial if that’s what you need to do), and ensuring that your references are consistent and match the manual’s recommendations (I can guarantee you’ll never stop checking for ampersands and appropriate periods). These sections of the book are immensely helpful, though I find it difficult to use when I have higher-level grammar or style questions. Sometimes I will confer with Chicago to confirm those questions.

Why I love APA style:

  • Great for academic writing
  • Helpful tips for bias-free language
  • Straightforward approach to references and citations

If you are using APA style and need more help, be sure to use the Publication Manual’s blog. It will provide you with plenty more information on writing and editing in APA style.

Web Resources

Okay, enough with the stylebooks! Here are some great web references that you can utilize for quick grammar, usage, and style questions.

4. Merriam-WebsterMerriam-Webster_logo.svg

I use merriam-webster.com as my go-to dictionary and thesaurus. It’s wise to have one specific dictionary to source for consistency. I recommend this tried-and-true version, and it’s the favorite of many stylebooks. You’ll be able to confirm spellings and capitalization as well as determine good synonyms when writing punchy copy. It even has a great medical dictionary and fun words of the day.

ud-logo5. Urban Dictionary

Okay, this is a little out of left field, but a lot of my clients use slang and colloquial language when writing blogs, newsletters, and other personal communications. Urban Dictionary is my source for looking up terms not in the Merriam-Webster (think figuring out what YOLO or FOMO means or deciding on a consistent spelling for “biznass” or “hair-did”).

duVKyUtt_400x4006. Grammar Girl

I have a professional crush on Grammar Girl. She’s all-knowing and is great at explaining problematic grammar issues, such as affect vs. effect, split infinitives, and parallel construction. Whenever you have a grammar question, this site can give you helpful information and tips without a whiff of grammar snobbery (a pet peeve of mine!). It’s a great way to answer specific questions or to relearn grammar that you last thought about when writing your final school paper a decade or two ago.

I hope these resources can be helpful to you as you create and edit content. I am always here to help you with any type of writing or editing. Contact me at natalielsilver (at) yahoo (dot) com to discuss your project and needs.

Five Tips for Writing an Academic Paper

A few weeks ago, I corresponded with a friend who is preparing to write her master’s thesis. To encourage her in the writing process, I gave her a few tips that always help me when writing an academic paper:

  1. Outline first. As a major in both writing and English in college, I wrote nearly two or three papers a week in some semesters. The topics ranged from personal essay and grant writing to literary criticism and composition theory. To keep my thoughts straight, I often outlined ideas while listening to professors in class. Later, in graduate school, I drafted outlines on the computer and mulled them over for several days before even starting a first draft. I can’t tell you the number of times I shifted focus during this outlining process. It may seem like one of those annoying things (even like busy work) that some professors force you to do before composing a paper, but it’s a great first step in the writing process.
  2. Work on several drafts. Like outlining, this can seem like a waste of time, especially to those who procrastinate. However, it’s helpful to leave a paper and return to it a day or two (or even a week) later. If you are writing a good paper that’s presenting a new idea (which is the ideal), it’s going to take you awhile to get your thoughts straight, not to mention your prose coherent.
  3. Form a writing group with one or more people in your program to collaborate with during the writing process. Most of us hate group work. It’s sometimes a torture device when you’re paired with people who you don’t connect with or when your schedule is overpacked as is. However, working with a partner or a group of people during your writing process can prove to be a big benefit. Your peers can provide you with constructive feedback, as they are saturated with the same content you studied in your program, helping you avoid writer’s block and turning over the same segmented ideas again and again in front of your computer screen.
  4. Start paragraphs with topic sentences. I credit a history professor in an elective course in college with teaching me the value of topic sentences. While writing is nuanced, delivering ideas and supporting evidence is the main aspect of writing an academic paper, so using topic sentences helps you get to the point fast. Like the simple five-paragraph essay where you state your thesis in the first paragraph, follow with three paragraphs supporting it, and finish with a conclusion, a topic sentence can be a launching point to make sure each paragraph in your paper has value. Consider utilizing sections as well for better coherence.
  5. Read aloud to yourself or a willing friend/family member. While I didn’t mention this tip to my friend, I am a strong advocate for reading a paper to him. My loyal and patient husband sat in our office on many occasions while I read papers for my master’s program aloud (it was a master’s in public administration, so think about the topics he had to sit through!). During each session, I corrected myself and rewrote. This is something you could do with your writing group or with someone who loves you unconditionally!

I hope these few tips can help you write an exceptional academic paper. If you need further help, I can assist you in polishing a draft, formatting references, and copyediting — whatever you need! Good luck with your paper!