If you can get past the videos of sneezing kittens, the internet is full of fantastic resources for writers. Today’s Manuscript March post is a round-up of some of the best. (At least, I’m labelling them the best. If you know of other contenders, please post them in the comments.)
Bookmark this page and come back to it when you need some online help with your writing.
Best Prose Health Check: The Writer’s Diet Test
Helen Sword over at the University of Auckland has developed an online test to measure the health of your prose. Copy a section of your writing, paste it into the box on her website, and you’ll get a report on the “fitness” of your prose. The tool checks your balance of verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, and is/that/this/there words. It’s an automated tool and doesn’t have the intricate understanding of a human editor, but it’s great for getting a quick diagnosis on where you need to tighten your writing. (Tip: the tool can check samples of 100 – 1000 words, but I find it’s best to check at least 400 words, otherwise your results can be artificially poor.)
Best Tool to Vary your Writing: University of Manchester Academic Phrasebank
We’ve posted about this before here at ThesisLink, but it’s worth repeating. The University of Manchester’s Academic Phrasebank functions as a kind of advanced thesaurus for academic writing. For instance, you can quickly see 10 different ways to introduce a list, 9 different phrases that describe percentages, 7 phrases that summarise discussion, and so on. Very handy when you find yourself stuck in a rut or repeating the same types of sentences.
Best Grammar & Punctuation Tips: Grammar Girl
Mignon Fogarty, aka the Grammar Girl, posts handy tips and answers reader questions on all things grammatical. Her explanations are clear and easy to follow, and her website has tips on subjects as diverse as paragraph length, the difference between “less” and “fewer,” and the origin of the phrase “the bee’s knees.”
Best Productivity Tool: The Pomodoro Technique
The ol’ red tomato is quite well-known these days, but if you haven’t heard of it, the Pomodoro technique is to work with intense concentration for 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat. For reasons I don’t fully comprehend, this technique is represented by a red tomato (pomodoro in Italian). The pomodoro technique is great for writers who struggle with focus and attention. There’s a paid timer available at the official website (linked above) but there are plenty of knock-offs available for free. You can also get timer apps for your smartphone – just search “pomodoro.”
Best Distraction Beater: q10 (or use full-screen editing mode in Word)
Going full-screen can be a lifesaver when you need to really concentrate on your writing. There are all sorts of full-screen editors out there which allow you to write with virtually nothing but your text on the screen. q10 is an easy-to-use full-screen editor which retains some functions (spell-checker, word count, etc) without cluttering your display.
You can also probably access full-screen mode in whichever programme you like to write in. Microsoft Word users: try pressing Alt+v then “u” to enter full-screen mode (this works in most versions of Word, but not all). Hit Escape to return to your usual view. You can also add a button for full-screen mode to your quick access toolbar. Select File -> Options, then “Quick Access Toolbar.” Select “All Commands” from the drop-down box, and select “Toggle Full Screen View.” Hit “Add > >” and then “OK” to close the window. Voila! You now have a full-screen button on your quick access toolbar.
Best Summary of Crimes Against Logic: A List of Fallacious Arguments
If you’ve ever wondered what a Straw Man argument is, or wanted to know how to avoid causal reductionism, this list from Don Lindsay is your new best friend. It gives a description of all the misleading, irresponsible, and otherwise flimsy forms of logic that can creep into academic writing. I’m cheating a little by including it in this round-up, since it’s not technically a writing resource, but it will help you to construct a solid argument.
Do you have any other online resources you like to use to aid your writing? Add them in the comments!