Here at Scribewise we talk a lot about content strategy, how to develop ideas, how to plan editorial calendars and the like…but I want to go back to a super simple yet incredibly important topic: Writing. The best idea in the world and the most comprehensive content strategy means nothing if you don’t have strong writers.
I don’t need to quote all of the statistics and articles out there noting that the Internet is full of a lot of crappy writing and it’s crucial to focus on quality over quantity (but if you must, read more here or here). By quality, we mean interesting content that meets the needs of your audience, but we also mean well-written content.
Here are some of our favorite writing references.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) isn’t going to win any web design awards, but this practical site will give you a snapshot of AP style, among other writing styles and resources you might need as a professional writer. Its straightforward organization and easy search function lets you find answers to your questions quickly (Which cities can stand on their own without an accompanying state?) and bookmark pages for later.
The Little, Brown Handbook Brief Edition
The Little, Brown Handbook, or LB Brief, which is not actually brown, is a classic grammar textbook that includes information on just about any grammar problem you’ll encounter. Whether you’re boldly tackling split infinitives or you need to explain to a colleague what a comma splice is, LB Brief is the perfect resource. And while I’m sure most of this grammar rules can be found on the Internet, sometimes it’s just easier to look up information in the handy index and find a detailed explanation with examples. Oh, and it’s a nice spiral-bound book. That’s got to count for something, right?
The Elements of Style
Time to drop some classic knowledge on you. William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White wrote The Elements of Style in 1935 but most of their advice stands true today. My favorite principle of composition is “Use definite, specific, concrete language. Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.” Faced with awful writing all over the web, this book can ground you.
When I do turn to the great Interwebs for grammar advice, I usually seek Mignon Fogerty, aka Grammar Girl, for her wise words. Fogerty has been enlightening writers and speakers all over the place with her podcast and blog since 2006. She uses recurring characters to explain things like the difference between affect and effect, whether you can end a sentence with a preposition (you can), lay versus lie, and how to use semicolons. I turn to her blog because she’s got an interesting way of tackling topics and includes background and context, rather than just the rules.
This terrific book from Marketing Profs’ Ann Handley came out just last year, and immediately got all kinds of rave reviews. The premise is that, in a content-driven world, great writing is more important than ever before. Whether you’re writing novels, blog posts or emails, it’s important to communicate clearly. Handley gives you lots and lots of tips on how to write well. Plus, she’s an awesome, fun writer to read.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
By none other than Stephen King, the prolific and best-selling author that pretty much all of us have spent our lives reading. King is obviously focused on fiction, but even if you’re a B2B content marketer there are great lessons here about crafting a story that captivates your audience.
Finally, there’s Google. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t use Google to conduct research or ask questions about writing every day.
What are your favorite writing resources? Email me at Kaitlin@scribewise.com or tweet @kipwing and let me know!