Effective writing skills are to a writer what petrol is to a car. Like the petrol and car relationship, without solid skills writers cannot move ahead. These skills don’t come overnight, and they require patience and determination. You have to work smart and hard to acquire them. Only with experience, you can enter the realm of effective, always-in-demand writers.
Of course, effective writing requires a good command of the language in which you write or want to write. Once you have that command, you need to learn some tips and tricks so that you can have an edge over others in this hard-to-succeed world of writers. There are some gifted writers, granted. But gifted writers also need to polish their skills frequently in order to stay ahead of competition and earn their livelihood.
Further Reading on SmashingMag:
- Quick Course On Effective Website Copywriting
- Behind The Scenes of Smashing Magazine
- The Overlooked Importance of Professional Journalism
- Getting Practical With Microcopy
- Five Copywriting Errors That Can Ruin A Company’s Website
We collected over 50 useful and practical tools and resources that will help you to improve your writing skills. You will find copywriting blogs, dictionaries, references, teaching classes, articles, tools as well as related articles from other blogs. Something is missing? Please let us know in the comments to this post!
1. Grammar, Punctuation & Co.
Use English Punctuation Correctly A quick and useful crash course in English punctuation.
HyperGrammar An extensive electronic grammar course at the University of Ottawa’s Writing Centre.
Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty’s quick and dirty tips for better writing. Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Covering the grammar rules and word choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules.
Better Writing Skills This site contains 26 short articles with writing tips about ampersands, punctuation, character spacing, apostrophes, semicolons and commas, difference between i.e. and e.g. etc.
The Guide to Grammar and Writing An older, yet very useful site that will help you to improve your writing on word & sentence level, paragraph level and also essay & research paper level.
Paradigm Online Writing Assistant This site contains some useful articles that explain common grammar mistakes, basic punctuation, basic sentence concepts etc. Worth visiting and reading. The Learning Centre contains similar articles, but with more examples.
Jack Lynch’s Guide to Grammar and Style These notes are a miscellany of grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage put by Jack Lynch, an Associate Professor in the English department of the Newark campus of Rutgers University, for his classes.
English Style Guide - Economist This guide is based on the style book which is given to all journalists at The Economist. The site contains various hints on how to use metaphors, punctuation, figures, hyphens etc. Brief and precise.
Technical Writing An extensive guidance on grammar and style for technical writing.
40+ Tips to Improve your Grammar and Punctuation “Purdue University maintains an online writing lab and I spent some time digging through it. Originally the goal was to grab some good tips that would help me out at work and on this site, but there is simply too much not to share.”
2. Common mistakes and problems
Common Errors in English A collection of common errors in English, with detailed explanations and descriptions of each error.
AskOxford: Better Writing A very useful reference for classic errors and helpful hints with a terrible site navigation.
Dr. Grammar’s Frequently Asked Questions Answers to common grammar questions related to English grammar, with examples and additional explanations.
English Grammar FAQ A list of common English language problems and how to solve them. This list was compiled through an extensive archive of postings to alt.usage.english by John Lawler, Linguistics, U. Michigan, Ann Arbor.
3. General Writing Skills
Writer’s Digest Writer’s Digest offers information on writing better and getting published. The site also includes community forums, blogs and huge lists of resources for writers.
Infoplease: General Writing Skills Various articles that aim to teach students how to write better.
The Elements of Style A freely available online version of the book “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr., the classic reference book.
Poynter Writing Tools A blog dedicated to writers and journalists. Poynter also provides Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List, a collection of podcasts related to writing.
learning lab / writing skills This site offers over 20 .pdf-documents with main rules and common mistakes related to summarising, paraphrasing, referencing, sentences, paragraphs, linking words and business writing. Handy.
Using English UsingEnglish.com provides a large collection of English as a Second Language (ESL) tools & resources for students, teachers, learners and academics. Browse our grammar glossary and references of irregular verbs, phrasal verbs and idioms, ESL forums, articles, teacher handouts and printables, and find useful links and information on English. Topics cover the spectrum of ESL, EFL, ESOL, and EAP subject areas.
Online Writing Courses Free courses are a great way to improve your writing skills. The courses shown here focus on several types of creative writing, including poetry, essay writing and fiction writing.
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4. Practical Guides To Better Writing Skills
Copywriting 101: An Introduction to Copywriting This tutorial is designed to get you up and running with the basics of writing great copy in ten easy lessons. Afterwards, you’ll get recommendations for professional copywriting training, plus links to tutorials on SEO copywriting and writing killer headlines.
A Guide to Writing Well “This guide was mainly distilled from On Writing Well by William Zinsser and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Other sources are listed in the bibliography. My memory being stubborn and lazy, I compiled this so I could easily refresh myself on writing well. I hope it will also be helpful to others.”
Online Copywriting 101: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet The ultimate cheat sheet with various Web copy resources that copywriters can use to lean the best writing tips and ideas.
Headlines and Trigger Words
- 50 Trigger Words and Phrases for Powerful Multimedia Content
- 21 Traffic Triggers for Social Media Marketing
- How To Write Magnetic Headlines (and even more headlines)
- Passive Voice Is Redeemed For Web Headings
- 5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post With a Bang
- Landing Page Tutorials and Case Studies
- Copywriting for e-Commerce
Common mistakes and errors
- 10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid
- The Seven Deadly Sins of Website Copy
- Six Common Punctuation Errors that Bedevil Bloggers
Writing tips from experts
- 10 Writing Tips from the Masters
- George Orwell’s tips on better writing
- Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
- Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
- Writing hacks (hacks for writing) by Scott Berkun
- 10 Steps Toward Better Writing
- A Guide To Becoming A Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
- 10 simple things you can do to improve your writing
- 7 Can’t-Miss Ways To Kick-Start The Writing Habit
- 10 Writing Tips for Web Designers
- Activate Your Verbs
- How to Write Faster, Better, and Easier
- Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don’t Want to Work at Writing
- How to Write Persuasive Links
- A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
- 21 Must-Read Tips To Write Better Web Content
5. Copywriting Blogs
CopyBlogger Now that blogging has become the smartest strategy for growing an authoritative web site, it’s your copywriting skills that will set you apart and help you succeed. And this is where Copyblogger comes into play. Brian Clark’s popular blog covers useful copywriting tips, guidelines and ideas.
Write to Done Leo Babuta’s blog about the craft and the art of writing. The blog covers many topics: journalism, blog writing, freelance writing, fiction, non-fiction, getting a book deal, the business of writing, the habit of writing. Updated twice weekly.
Problogger Darren Rowse’s blog helps bloggers to add income streams to their blogs – among other things, Darren also has hundreds of useful articles related to copy writing.
Men with Pens A regularly updated blog with useful tips for writers, freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Time to Write Jurgen Wolff’s tips, ideas, inspirations for writers and would-be writers and other creative people.
Daily Writing Posts “Whether you are an attorney, manager, student or blogger, writing skills are essential for your success. Considering the rise of the information age, they are even more important, as people are surrounded by e-mails, wikis, social networks and so on.
“It can be difficult to hone one’s writing skills within this fast paced environment. Daily Writing Tips is a blog where you will find simple yet effective tips to improve your writing.”
CopyWriting “Copywriting website is jam-packed with useful information, articles, resources and services geared to show you how to write mouth-watering, profit-generating copy. Copy that changes minds and dramatically boosts your results. So come right in… you’re going to like what you see! It has copywriting courses, tools, articles and much more.”
The Copywriter Underground A copywriting blog by the freelance writer Tom Chandler.
Lifehack: Writing This collection of resources includes links to 30 posts on Lifehack that may help you to improve your writing skills.
OneLook Dictionary Search More than 13,5 million words in more than 1024 online dictionaries are indexed by the OneLook search engine. You can find, define, and translate words all at one site.
Visuwords Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate.
Merriam Webster: Visual Dictionary The Visual Dictionary Online is an interactive dictionary with an innovative approach. From the image to the word and its definition, the Visual Dictionary Online is an all-in-one reference. Search the themes to quickly locate words, or find the meaning of a word by viewing the image it represents. What’s more, the Visual Dictionary Online helps you learn English in a visual and accessible way.
OneLook Reverse Dictionary OneLook’s reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word.
Online Spell Checker Free online spell checker that provides you with quick and accurate results for texts in 28 languages (German, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian, Portuguese etc.).
GNU Aspell GNU Aspell is a Free and Open Source spell checker designed to eventually replace Ispell. It can either be used as a library or as an independent spell checker. Its main feature is that it does a superior job of suggesting possible replacements for a misspelled word than just about any other spell checker out there for the English language.
WordWeb A one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia. Features of the free version include definitions and synonyms, proper nouns, 150 000 root words and 120 000 synonym sets.
write rhymes As you write, hold the alt key and click on a word to find a rhyme for it.
Verbix This English conjugator will help you to determine how to use verbs in the proper tense.
Wordcounter Wordcounter ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse or maybe just to find some keywords from a document. Text Statistics Generator is an alternative tool: it gives you a quick analysis of number of word occurrences.
Advanced Text Analyzer (requires registration) This free tool analyzes texts, calculating the number of words, lexical density, words per sentence, character per word and the readability of the text as well as word analysis, phrase analysis and graded analysis. Useful!
Graviax Grammar Checker Grammar rules (XML files containing regular expressions) and grammar checker. Currently only for the English language, although it could be extended. Unit tests are built into the rules. Might form the basis of a grammar checker for OpenOffice.
txt2tags Txt2tags is a document generator. It reads a text file with minimal markup as bold and //italic// and converts it to the formats HTML, LaTeX, MediaWiki, Google Code Wiki, DokuWiki, Plain text and more.
Markdown Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML). Requires Perl 5.6.0 or later.
7. Further Resources
50 Useful Open Source Resources For Writers and Writing Majors And if you’re a writing major, why not take advantage of all the opportunities to get great free and open source resources that can help you to write, edit and organize your work? Here’s a list of fifty open source tools that you can use to make your writing even better.
English Forums If you have a question related to English Grammar, join these forums to get advice from others who know the language better or can provide you with some related information.
The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource A round-up of applications, services, resources, tools, posts and communities for writers and bloggers who want to improve their writing skills.
100 Useful Web Tools for Writers 100 useful Web tools that will help you with your career, your sanity and your creativity whenever your write.