Whether you write fiction, technical guides, business white papers, or blog posts, staying on top of your craft is a must—and you don’t have to break the budget in the process. Here are six free resources that can help make your writing the best it can be.
1. Coursera — Learn or improve your word craft with courses such as Writing for Young Readers and High-Impact Business Writing. You could also choose to round out your writerly education by exploring programs in philosophy or mythology or pretty much any subject that catches your fancy. Classes are university level, conducted online in a format known as MOOCs (massive open online courses).
2. Library of Congress — Do you need to add authentic historical details to your writing? The Library of Congress offers an online digital collection of maps, photographs, newspapers, sound recordings, and films. For example, if you need to know the price of children’s good strong school shoes 100 years ago in Harlem, Montana, look up an issue of the local newspaper, The Enterprise. You’ll learn shoes regularly priced at $1.50 to $2.50 were on sale for $1 to $1.50. The paper also reports a close out of children’s gauze underwear at 10 to 25 cents per garment. (That’s the ad above in the post image.)
3. Word of the Day — Sign up for email delivery of the word of the day from Merriam-Webster. The company calls itself a provider of language information—and what could be more useful to a writer? That’s especially true if you’re not a fictioneer, which was the word of the day on May 28.
4. U.S. Copyright Office — You can read the full 1,288 pages of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition—or you can head straight to the FAQs. From basic questions such as “what is copyright” to whether you can get a star named after you and claim copyright to it, the answers are a click away. (The answer to the star question is no. Why? Because names are not copyrightable.)
5. University of Chicago Press — The Chicago Manual of Style Q&A offers answers to those perplexing grammar questions. Sign up and get each month’s question and answer resource delivered to your inbox. An example from a recent issue:
Q. Do you use a or an before a word that begins with the letter S?
A. If the S is pronounced with a hissing sound (“sss”), use a: a snack. If the S is pronounced as the letter S (“ess”), use an: an SVGA cable.
6. Google — Feeling puzzled? Lucky? Generous? Or do you simply want to know the definition of a word? Type the word “define” followed by the word you’re seeking and the definition will be at the top of the results list. Want to know the synonym or antonym of a word? Use the same method, substituting whichever group of words you need. Interested in a word’s etymology? Type “etymology” after the word.
If you use the Pomodoro time management method, type “set timer for 25 minutes.” Google will start the clock for you and an alarm will sound when your session is finished.
Is your writing project driving you loopy? Type “do a barrel roll” into the Google search bar and watch what happens.
Know of more useful free resources for fellow writers? Tell us about your discoveries in the comments.
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
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