Grammar Reference

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The first half of the equation to improving your writing skills is to have a few style, usage, and grammar reference books on your shelf. The second half, of course, is referring to them whenever even a momentary flicker of doubt about something you've written, or are about to write, crosses your mind. Disciplined practice is the key to making progress.

Tried and True Grammar Reference Books

Several writing and style guides have been around for decades. Some of the publishers come out with new editions every 10 or so years, knowing how important it is to keep up not only with the ever-growing English language but as well with changing technologies. The most venerable and academically oriented is The Chicago Manual of Style, now in its 15th edition. As a grammar reference it might compare less well against Words into Type or The Gregg Reference Manual. As a comprehensive usage and writing resource, it is beyond compare.

If you're looking for a single, convenient, slender, and portable style and grammar reference, you can't do much better than Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Acclaimed for its authority as well as its readability, it covers elementary rules of grammar, usage, and composition. Its publishers, Macmillan Collier (paperback edition), have also released a more comprehensive grammatical resource, Margaret Shertzer's The Elements of Grammar. Both of these are first rate.

Many writers want something more accessible, however. The Internet is the best source for simpler, faster grammar references. Find a site that is organized well and has useful references, and bookmark it. The next step, then, is to actually refer to it when you need help. Since most of us write on a computer now, it can be infinitely easier to access a specific grammar point this way, rather than thumbing through a classic.


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