5 grammar and style resources for communicators

Even experts can forget their writing do’s and don’ts. Here are five places to go when you want a second opinion.

PR pros often field questions about grammar and punctuation.

Simple questions about spelling can be answered on websites such as Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com or their related apps. I’ve even used the speech function on the Merriam-Webster app to sound out a word and get the correct spelling.

However, those sites aren’t always helpful for answering questions such as, “Should I use a comma or semicolon here?” or, “Do you ‘home in on’ or ‘hone in on’ something?”

Veteran writers and editors might crack open their hard copies of “The Elements of Style” or The AP Stylebook, but wordsmiths with internet access might find it quicker and easier to consult online resources.

Here are five websites to answer questions related to grammar and punctuation:

1. AP Stylebook Online

This subscription-based service gives you online access to the industry-standard stylebook while adding digital functionality and search capability.

The online version fills in the gaps between the annual print editions with regularly updated entries; I’ve even posted a question on the site and received a response from an editor in a timely manner. Keep in mind that this resource is geared toward journalists and will offer rules and guidelines that might differ from The Chicago Manual of Style and other stylebooks.

2. Common Errors in English

Compiled by Professor Paul Brians of Washington State University, this site provides alphabetical listings of common errors. It also has an interesting section on “eggcorns,” which are misheard or misinterpreted words and phrases such as “udderly” instead of “utterly.”

3. GrammarBook.com

Although it’s mainly a plug for The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, this site offers rules for grammar and punctuation, videos, online quizzes, a grammar blog and a weekly e-newsletter.

4. Grammarly Handbook

Even if you don’t use the Grammarly automated proofreader and grammar checker, you can consult Grammarly’s writing guide found within its blog section.

In addition to providing explanations and tips on grammar and punctuation, this guide also addresses mechanics, technique and style. You’ll have to deal with the occasional promotional pop-up, but you can usually close them and continue to the content.

5. Grammar Girl

More of a collection of tips and archived articles from “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty, this site housed within QuickandDirtyTips.com also offers a weekly e-newsletter, RSS feed, podcast and various related social media channels.

Google a grammar question and you’ll probably see content from Grammar Girl at the top of your search results. I also recommend the Grammar Girl’s Guide to AP Style online course, which is well worth the time and money invested.

These resources should serve you well, but remember that language and grammar rules change over time. For example, it wasn’t long ago that the Associated Press wanted you to write out “Web site” as two words, using a capital “W.” Now, the simple “website” is preferred.

Remember, your overall writing objective should always be comprehension. Does your audience understand what you’re trying to convey to them? If so, mission accomplished.

Glenn Gillen is a senior account manager at S&A Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

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