Over the years – through journalism school, my first reporting gig and my current job as a content producer – I have grown my collection of writing resources for everything from spelling and grammar to archiving and writer’s block.
As a writer (reporter, blogger, website editor, etc.) your credibility is based on the quality of your work and your ability to meet deadlines and come up with innovative ideas. Easier said than done when you do this for 40 hours a week.
And it’s especially hard when you’re a one man band – when you don’t have a team of editors to give you assignments and clean up your stories. As a blogger, you’re often on your own to conjure up story ideas and proof read your goods.
Here are three of my favorite useful (and sometimes quirky) content resources.
AP Style Book and Briefing on Media Law: I’ve had one of these at my side since my first journalism class in college. The Associated Press is considered the industry standard for all things editorial writing. The book covers everything from spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, reporting tactics, ethics and more. It’s laid out in alphabetic order (for the most part) and is beyond useful for all those little nuances that even Google can’t decide on. Like whether or your particular use of the phrase “cover up” needs a hyphen. It’s also a good tool for those not well versed in the world of political correctness. For example, AP style dictates that the term illegal immigrant is preferred over undocumented worker or alien. It will also tell you that the words prison and jail are not interchangeable and that you really should use periods in U.N. (United Nations) even though that’s an exception to how Webster’s does things. As you can see, it makes for great cocktail party conversation.
The Internet Archive: The Internet Archive (Internet, by the way, should always be capitalized according to AP style) is pretty self-explanatory. And it’s awesome. The non-profit website based in San Francisco allows users to look back and see what websites looked like on any given day. Not all days and not all websites are available, the system is a bit clunky, and it’s not always 100 percent accurate … but it’s a heck of a start. This tool is probably more useful to tech bloggers than anything, but it’s a good distraction for just about anyone. Chicago Tribune circa 2001 anyone (left)?
Write or Die: Ever wonder how novelists of reporters sit down for hours on end, cranking out hundreds, even thousands, of words without the slightest trace of writer’s block? They might love the craft and have a real knack for it. Or they might use Write or Die (Write or Die 2 is the new version). The app allows you to set fake consequences, rewards and stimuli. Consequence mode includes virtual spiders, alarm sounds and more. Reward mode thanks you for a job well done with puppies and charming bells. Stimuli mode lets you set visuals and noises that will help with concentration. And whether you work better with a word count goal or a time goal, Write or Die has you covered.