Where to Check Your Words

No wonder Charlie Brown likes her: Good penmanship & grammar.

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, when we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover together. I have a short post today with resources for anyone in the midst of writing or editing–whether that’s a novel, an essay, a resume, or a love note from the little red-haired girl.

Definitions

Does anyone even use a paper dictionary anymore? I have one on my shelf, but I am far more likely to look up the definition of a word online. To that end, here are links to internet dictionaries.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The first American dictionary was written in 1806 by Noah Webster. When he died, George and Charles Merriam purchased publishing rights. Since then, we’ve had Merriam-Webster–which is now a subsidiary of Encyclopaedia Brittanica. (See Merriam-Webster on Wikipedia.)

Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com uses several sources for its word meanings, including Random House and Heritage dictionaries.

OED Online. For the dedicated language lover, there is always the Oxford English Dictionary online. Recognized as the definitive source for all-things-English, you will have to pay, however, for this privilege. Annual subscriptions for individuals are $295.

Synonyms

Synonyms are the embodiment of the call for “the same…but different.”

Thesaurus.com. Run by the same people who brought us Dictionary.com, this is my go-to place for What’s that word? I can’t think of it. It’s kind of like “small,” but not small… Or when you’ve typed “tingled” so many times in your manuscript that your beta reader is uncomfortable, and you know you need a different word with a similar meaning.

Roget’s Thesaurus. Roget.org provides the 1911 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus online, from Project Gutenberg. The site is easy to use, but just note that newer word usages won’t be there. Most word meanings remain the same, but the English language is fluid and some things change.

A word about Synonym.com. It also promises to provide, as one might expect, synonyms for words you input. However, the database is entirely based on Microsoft Word so you’re not getting much there, plus the site is so riddled with advertisements that I clicked off within seconds of my arrival.

Rhymes

I also keep a Rhyming Dictionary, published by Random House, on my bookshelf. I have written several poems and songs, and that little dictionary came in super-handy for those projects. Even writing prose, however, I sometimes want a rhyming word. Check out the following.

RhymeZone. RhymeZone allows you to find both exact rhymes and near rhymes. For instance, exact rhymes for “corn” would be “born” or “torn,” but near rhymes include “barn” and “turn.” Results are categorized by one-syllable, two-syllable, etc., making it easy to also find the rhythm you’re seeking.

Rhymer. Rhymer is also easy to use and you can filter your search by type: such as first syllable, last syllable, and double-syllable. If you find a word in the rhyming results you’d rather use, you can also click it and find rhymes for the selected word.

Grammar

English language usage can be confusing, and we all need to look up a grammar question from time to time. I have several books on my shelf for reference, but I also go online.

Grammarly Handbook. Grammarly advertises itself as the “World’s most accurate grammar checker.” The site has specific articles on grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and style–for instance, “Prepositions of Spatial Relationship” and “Quotations within a Quotation.” The Grammarly software, or rather plug-in, can be added to existing software to check your text for grammar and style, as well as checking for possible plagiarism. I haven’t used this feature, so I don’t know whether it’s worth it. I will say that nearly anything has to be better than Microsoft Word’s anemic efforts to master grammar and language usage.

Chicago Manual of Style. In addition to my well-worn paperback Strunk and White, this site is my usual place to check current rules of grammar and style. I have a subscription, but at $35 a year, I figured it well worth my investment.

Grammar Girl. I am also partial to Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty, covers a wide range of grammar, language, and writing topics, and also answers questions sent to her by listeners and readers. You can search her articles for an answer to your specific question.

Your turn. What are your favorite resources for checking your words?

Not good at this yourself? If your manuscript needs a thorough copy-edit by someone who knows and loves spelling, grammar, punctuation, and all of that stuff, check out my Copy Editing services. Oh, and if you find a mistake in this post, let me know. 🙂

Challenges and Changes with the New Year

New YearA New Year is a perfect time to reevaluate where you are and where you want to be. Although really, I’ve been analyzing how I use my time and what I want to accomplish for several months. Sometime in the fall, I concluded that a few changes were warranted.

Here they are.

Blog. I love blogging. I didn’t know if I would, but it’s been a fabulous activity for me to hone my writing and, more importantly, to connect with, inform, and entertain readers. For quite a while, I’ve blogged three times a week–Sunday ROW80 updates, Amazing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. I will be taking that down to twice a week.

My Wednesday posts about the labyrinth of language (aka A-maze-ing Words Wednesday) will continue, and my Sunday posts will be devoted to sharing whatever I’ve learned and want to share. In keeping with the labyrinth theme, these will be Scarlet Thread Sundays. This is my last Deep-Fried Friday post.

copy editingCopy Editing. I’m a rare individual who enjoys–nay, delights!–in proofreading for people. It’s not that I’m some sick individual who wants to red pen all over perfectly good pages. To me, line editing, copy editing, proofreading are putting the polish on a finished product–making it shine. I revel in knowing that the read will be easier and flow better with proper word choice, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. The story itself will come through and not be hindered by avoidable errors.

Consequently, my copy editing services are now for hire. If you are interested, click on the Copy Editing tab on the menu above for more information.

ROW80LogocopyROW80. I will once again be participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days. I still love this challenge from Kait Nolan for its focus, flexibility, accountability, and encouragement. Indeed, I have been a sponsor for several rounds now.

Although I will be continuing my own ROW80 challenge, I am stepping away from sponsorship this time. If you are interested in being a cheerleader for this worthy writers’ experience, head over to the ROW80 website and see about signing up as a future sponsor.

Self-publishing. This year I will be pursuing the traditional publishing route for my YA contemporary novel, Sharing Hunter. However, I plan to self-publish my first mystery, Grace & Fire, in 2013.

There are two sequels already plotted for this mystery trilogy, and it is my desire to write them as well and release all three in 2013 if I can. I have previously stated that, of all the routes now open to writers, the one of hybrid author–both self and traditionally published–appeals to me most.

What changes do you expect to make in 2013? How do you wish to redirect your focus? What are your most important goals for the new year?