I’m sure all professional writers have their favorite resources to turn to when they get stuck for inspiration, have a tricky grammar question or need to make sure they’re following the right style.
But I’m always a little surprised to learn many on-the-job writers don’t use any resources at all.
I usually discover this when I’m asked a tough grammar or punctuation question during a business writing workshop. Instead of guessing at the answer, I grab my dog-eared copy of The Gregg Reference Manual, turn to the detailed index, and quickly locate the answer.
That’s right. I don’t have all the answers to every question I’m asked about infinitives, predicate adjectives, and reflexive pronouns.
In fact, I turn to my writing resources almost every day. And that’s the point I want to make to the groups in my workshops. A reference manual–and other resources–are important writing tools.
Dictionaries are online now, but I still have an old paperback version I turn to all the time.
For a quick reference, I check The Pocket Guide to Technical Communication by William Sanborn Pfeiffer. This is a terrific resource because it includes helpful information on the writing process, sample formats of all kinds of documents, and a writing handbook.
I still have my hardcover copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, but I don’t use it very often for business writing. Consistency in word choice is more helpful to readers than variety.
Other references I use include The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook (both available online).
Do you use a writing resource? If so, which is your favorite and why?