by Annette Lyon
A comment by Angela Michelle on one of my recent posts inspired me to post links to some great blogs that help with punctuation, grammar, and other English-language questions.
First off is the one I looked up after she pointed me toward it: Apostrophe Catastrophes (Great minds think alike; that was my post title!) After seeing enough funny wrong examples, you'll get more confident in using apostrophes correctly in your work.
Same goes with this humorous blog. It pokes good fun at misused quotation marks. I got plenty of laughs seeing signs where something very different than what is meant is implied by rogue quotation marks. The blog is appropriately called The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.
Now for a great resource: If you're unsure about a grammar, punctuation, or usage issue, consult Grammar Girl. She covers just about everything. (Her latest topic: misuse of the phrase, "begs the question." Bet you didn't even know that was an issue!) Subscribe to her newsletter, listen to her podcasts, and take her online challenge (a brief quiz). She's even got a new book out.
Not long ago, I stumbled upon another site that was not only educational, but it was great fun for word nerds like yours truly: Common Errors in English. I could spend all day surfing that site. Bookmark it; you'll want to go back to look things up when you're unsure. The man behind the site, Paul Brians, now has a book out by the same name.
If you're a total word nerd (celebrate with me!), you'll want to look into buying the Oxford English Dictionary (known as the OED) either on CD or by subscribing to it online. It's the most comprehensive dictionary in the English language and a boon to any writer's arsenal.
(Read about how it came to be in this book. The dictionary, a couple dozen volumes in length, is a truly remarkable feat.)
I rely on the OED to verify when words came into use (especially helpful with historical writing) by checking the printed quotes in a citation, which include the earliest known published usage of each word. You can also discover the history behind words, which has been loads of fun. The CD version gives you a word of the day whenever you start it up. (Mine today: familiarism.)
And remember, you can always e-mail a question to the editors here, and we'll post an answer. Find the address at the top right.