Stacey D. Atkinson

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What a great feeling to look over at your bookshelf and admire all those shiny-covered books: a dictionary, a thesaurus, a few style manuals, and a grammar guide. Such a proud display of literary tools. But have you ever found yourself being a tad lazy and not wanting to actually get out of your chair, go over to the bookshelf, and pick up that heavy hardcover dictionary just to check the hyphenation rule on one crummy little word? Don’t get me wrong—as a writer and an editor, I love my resource books, and there is definitely a time and a place for them. But I also think there is value in online tools. Perhaps the best of both worlds is needed: a mix of traditional ways (books) and new ways (online subscriptions) of working.

As long as we keep needing to look up the difference between effect and affect, or restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses, then we will keep needing our spelling, grammar, and style guides at our fingertips. So, here are some great online tools that will help you build your online resource library.

Chicago Manual of Style Online
$35/year

This is one of the most popular style guides around, and it answers all kinds of questions about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. It has an easy search function so you can find what you are looking for within seconds of typing in your keyword, which makes scouring a table of contents or index unnecessary.

Merriam-Webster Unabridged
$29.95/year

This is the largest American dictionary currently available, and it includes author quotations and French-English and Spanish-English dictionaries. It has an easy-to-use search function that brings up all possible results, including how to use the word you are looking for (and spelling variations) as a noun, adjective, adverb, verb, etc. And of course, if you don’t mind ads, you can always use the free version.

Google Translate
Free

Do you ever find yourself needing to look up the spelling of a French or Spanish word? Google Translate is a great tool to quickly check foreign words or phrases. And if you have a Gmail account and you're logged in with your Google Chrome browser, you can easily access this translating tool by clicking on the Google drop-down menu on the top right-hand corner of your screen (click on the dotted square icon and then click “more” at the bottom of the box).

The Language Portal of Canada
Free

This government website showcases Canadian expertise in language. It includes access to Termium Plus, the Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic bank with over four million English, French, and Spanish terms; as well as the Gateway to English, a search engine of sixteen writing tools, hundreds of language articles, quizzes, and much more.

Writer’s Market
$5.99/month or $39.99/year

Take advantage of this online database to find ways to make a career out of writing. You can search listings for freelance writing gigs, writing contests, literary agents and publishers, and more. 

Oxford Dictionaries online
Free

If you have a need to check UK English spelling (with an option for US English), and if you don't mind ads, then this handy online dictionary can be quite useful for a quick search. 

And as a bonus tip...

Book Riot

Just for the fun of it, visit Book Riot for book reviews, giveaways, and fun bookish accessories, like this adorable typewriter necklace from Book Fetish: Volume 150.

 Photo credit: Bookriot.com | Penelope

Stacey D. Atkinson is a freelance editor and author of Stuck, a novel she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.

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