6 Resources that Will Improve Your Writing

January 1, 2011

6 of the best resources for writers:
- 3 Books (1 for basics, 1 for reference, and 1 for sticky writing).
- 2 Websites (1 for web writing and 1 for content marketing).
- 1 App (a dictionary).

[Insert here the blah-blah intro text that nobody reads.]

1. The Basics of Writing: Elements of Style

At 87 pages, this enduring classic is beautifully concise and is laden with concrete examples.

Elements of Style is the best guide for learning the fundamentals of writing.

The only problem with Elements of Style is that it’s too short to stand alone as an all-encompassing tutorial or reference guide. For that you’ll need:

2. The Best Reference Guide: Garner’s Modern American Usage

At 875 pages, this is the authority on grammar, usage and style.

If Garner says it then it is so.

Don’t let the mammoth length of Modern American Usage deter you: you read it 1 essay at a time or you look up 1 word at a time.

It’s like a friend you call on in times of need. You grab it quickly to find something. But then you become engrossed in the book’s insight and charm and you read beyond what you’d intended to look-up.

You might expect a reference guide to be boring and stuffy but Garner’s wry sense of humor jumps off the page.

3. The Fastest Dictionary: Google Dictionary

For web reading, download Google Dictionary for the Chrome browser. It allows you to double-click on a word, and then a text box gives you the definition.

Google Dictionary is the fastest way to look-up a word.

If you prefer Firefox, get Dictionary Search. Then just right-click on a word to look-it-up.1

The best written and most comprehensive dictionary is the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I own it but I don’t recommend it because it’s a pain to use.2

4. Writing Usable Content for the Web: Jakob Nielsen

Do you write content for web pages? If you do, you need to know how users read on the web and how you should write for the web.

Nielsen’s writing for the web articles show you how to format your web writing so that people can find and use your information.

My 10 Simple Tips to Get More People to Read Your Writing is grounded in Nielsen’s research.3

5. Writing Sticky Content that is Memorable and Persuasive: Made to Stick

Made to Stick shows you how to craft your messages so that people will remember and act on what you say.

Made to Stick is filled with examples to make your ideas:

  • Concrete (So people understand).
  • Credible (So people believe).
  • Emotional (So people care).
  • In a story format (So people act).

6. Writing Compelling Content that is your Advertising: Copyblogger

Copyblogger starts with the idea that people want to read great content. It then shows you how to write compelling content so that your content *is* your advertising.

You can use content marketing to promote yourself, your business or your ideas.

The popular articles listed on Copyblogger’s homepage are great examples of writing that:

  1. Is useful to readers.
  2. Builds the credibility and authority of the authors.

These are my favorite writing resources. What are some of yours?

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  1. But Firefox’s Dictionary Search isn’t as fast as Google Dictionary. []
  2. The two-volume set of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is too big and heavy (and costs about $100). What would you rather do?:

    • Take 1 second to double-click on a word; or
    • Take 1 minute to rise out of your chair, grab the OED off your shelf, flip through the pages to find your word, put it back on the shelf, and then return to your chair.


  3. Nielsen writes longer articles than you or I should. He can get away with it because 1) he’s uber famous and 2) his audience is relatively elite. []

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie Besner January 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for sharing your post. I thought the content marketing link was very helpful. I strongly agree that content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent.

The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty. The reason content marketing is being used by some of the greatest organizations in the world (Microsoft, Cisco, AT _ T) is because IT WORKS!



Kevin Kane January 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Hi Natalie,
Copyblogger recently wrote “blogging is dead, long live content marketing.”

If we’re just blogging without value, then it’s dead.

But if we’re using our expertise to deliver something helpful and concrete, that can attract readers and help convert them into customers.


Ricardo Bueno January 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Numbers 1, 4 and 5 caught my attention. And Copyblogger is definitely on my daily reading list (and I recommend it to every constantly). I’ve been meaning to read “Made To Stick” for a while, just have never gotten around to it is all.


Kevin Kane January 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hi Ricardo,

Jakob Nielsen’s research shows that you can be a brilliant magazine or newspaper writer — but if you don’t adapt your writing for the web, nobody is going to read it.


Mavis February 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

Big thumbs up for marvelous information. I must say that
i’m astonished your page is so far down in the search engine results. I think it had been on page 5…. and pages 1 through 4 had extremely little relevant info which I could possibly use.


Kevin Kane February 28, 2013 at 12:15 am

Thanks Mavis. I haven’t tried to promote my site so I suppose it doesn’t get a great ranking. But I appreciate your compliment!


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