Writing Tools

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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In the strictest sense of the phrase, the writing tools that we all have right at hand include the painfully obvious keyboard and a dictionary. Next on the list is probably Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. At $7.95 for a one-quarter-inch thick paperback, it's an incredibly good investment and almost mandatory. There are a host of other writing tools, most of them books worth buying. The question for you is whether you want to keep an old-fashioned library or depend on the Internet. Covering your bases and using both makes the most sense.

Maybe you want only to be sure that your grammar and spelling and use of punctuation are accurate. You don't want to be embarrassed by mistakes you make in a companywide memo. Perhaps you're looking for a new position. The economy is tight, competition is stiff, and details make all the difference. A survey of Fortune 1000 executives recently revealed that 80 percent trash applications with any kind of grammar, spelling, or punctuation error.

Suggested Writing Tools

Beyond Strunk and White and a Webster's dictionary, you're well advised to pick up a copy of the Associated Press style guide. The classics for those serious about sophisticated writing skills include the Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition (a new one comes out every decade), a couple general usage guides, such as Words into Type and The Gregg Reference Manual. That's a decent start.

For researchers and writers, we've only begun the transition to online libraries, but it's well underway. The big names are out there, usually with subscription-based access, which is well worth the small annual fee. Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, is fully online. The federal government is in process, with the Census Bureau and its wealth of data leading the way. Smaller private and nonprofit sites offer a wealth of writing tools, including workshops and free tip sheets.

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