Writing Well

Advice I’m following to write well   

    If you’ve read my blog and thought, “Boy, that Steve is such an inept writer,” you should have read my stuff before I subscribed to Mark Nichol’s Daily Writing Tips email newsletter.

Thanks to Mark, my writing ability has risen from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the dregs.

Each day in my email inbox I get tips about writing basics,  grammar, misused words, punctuation, reviews of books about writing — just about anything I should know about putting words together to effectively communicate.

The Daily Writing Tips website is packed with resources for writers. Drop by and subscribe to Mark’s newsletter.

Here’s a recent Daily Writing Tips email newsletter you may find useful:

7 Great Websites for Writers

by Mark Nichol

From usual suspects to obscure gems, from grammar guides to usage resources, here are some websites of great value to writers:

1. Amazon.com 
You may have heard of this website — a good place, I understand, to find books (or anything else manufactured). But what I appreciate even more is the “Search inside this book” link under the image of the book cover on most pages in the Books section.
No longer does one need to own a book or go to a bookstore or a library to thumb through it in search of that name or bon mot or expression you can’t quite remember. And even if you do have access to the book in question, it’s easier to search online (assuming you have a keyword in mind that’s proximal in location or locution to your evasive prey) than to try to remember on what part of what page in what part of the book you remember seeing something last week or last month or years ago.
And then, of course, there are the site’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” features — but the book search can be a writer’s salvation.

2. Banned for Life 
Newspaper editor Tom Mangan’s site lists reader contributions of clichés and redundancies.

3. The Chicago Manual of Style Online
My review on this site of The Chicago Manual of Style notes that buying the bulky book, despite its abundance of useful information, is overkill for writers (but not editors), but editorial professionals of all kinds will benefit from the CMOS website’s Style Q&A feature, which responds authoritatively, sensibly, and often humorously to visitors’ queries.

4. GrammarBook.com 
The late Jane Straus, author of The Blue Book on Grammar and Punctuation, created this site to promote her book, but it also features many simple grammar lessons (with quizzes), as well as video lessons, an e-newsletter, and blog entries that discuss various grammar topics.

5. The Phrase Finder 
A useful key to proverbs, phrases from the Bible and Shakespeare, nautical expressions, and American idiom (the site originates in the United Kingdom), plus a feature called “Famous Last Words” and, for about $50 a year, subscription to a phrase thesaurus. (Subscribers include many well-known media companies and other businesses as well as universities.)

6. The Vocabula Review 
The Principal Web Destination for Anyone Interested in Words and Language Essays about language and usage; $25 per year by email, $35 for the print version.

7. The Word Detective 
Words and Language in a Humorous Vein on the Web Since 1995. This online version of Evan Morris’s newspaper column of the same name (some were also published in the book The Word Detective) features humorous Q&A entries about word origins.


Remember Cracked magazine?

OK, you’re way too young (above, cover to Sept. 1962 issue), but back in the day Cracked was the magazine you bought when MAD magazine was all sold out. I was so loyal to MAD that I never bought Cracked.

Well, today Cracked no longer publishes a print magazine, but they do have a hugely popular website, scoring about 300 million monthly page views.

I find Cracked consistently fun and informative. Never lets me down. Always surprises me. How many websites can you say that about? I mean, besides Steve of Upland? And Cracked is headquartered right here in Los Angeles!

“We write funny, fact-based list articles about science, history, bad-asses and pop culture,” Cracked’s senior writer Daniel O’Brien explains.

As of this writing, the Cracked website features …

  • The 5 Most Ingenious Worlds Ever Invented by Science Fiction
  • 4 Video Game Complaints We’re Just Going to Have to Get Over
  • 8 Prehistoric Creatures Ripped Directly from Your Nightmares
  • 7 Phrases That Are Great Signs It’s Time to Stop Talking

The reason I’m bringing up Cracked in my Writing Well post is that, well, Cracked is looking for writers. Cracked helps talented new writers build a portfolio and find an audience.

That could be YOU.

Here’s what they say:

We want you

You can write and make stuff for Cracked.com, today

If you are a funny/smart/creative person, Cracked.com is the single best opportunity you will ever come across in your life.

No experience necessary. We will pay you if it’s good. You talk directly to the editors — no form letter rejections.

Your work could be seen by millions of people. We need articlesphotoshopsinfographics and videos. Take your pick.

If you want to write the list-style feature articles that Cracked.com is famous for (like 26 Sexy Halloween Costumes That Shouldn’t Exist or 6 Books Everyone (Including Your English Teacher) Got Wrong) you simply need to sign up for our writer’s forum.

The only thing we require is that you’re passionate, creative, and respectful of the other writers. It takes zero effort to join.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

But before you submit something, please read Dan’s article The 4 Worst Things About Writing for the Internet. It’s a must read for any writer about to venture out into the big, bad Internet.

What’s that? Why don’t I write for Cracked?

I could, if I wanted to.

Listen, I have better things to do with my time. I have some great inventions I’m working on. Like my Briefcase Chair …


Where I go for inspiration and to learn the mechanics of writing well . . .