Helpful links for your website's content

Tue, 29th January 2008, 18:15

Creating content for your website can be difficult. Not all of us are English majors (or use English as our primary language, for that matter) and have become accustomed to the relaxed punctuation and grammar requirements having a blog provides. That doesn't mean we are free to discard centuries-old rules. For some people, poor grammar is enough to make them discount what you have to say.

I've assembled some simple links to refer to when writing. I hope you find them helpful.

First up is the gold standard for writing, William Stunk Jr.'s “Elements of Style”. The examples are simple and clearcut. You cannot go wrong to follow these rules. Are you joining independent clauses with a comma, instead of the fancy and dignified semi-colon? You won't be after reading this. It is easy to forget the purpose of proper composition is to help the reader. Why bother writing if people cannot understand what you say? If you use only one resource from this article, make it this one.

If you are like me, and hey—maybe you are, simple things when writing may trip you up. I get confused about using lay or lie correctly. I know there is a rule, but I am never certain whether I am following it or not. Is it who or whom? Who knows! “Common Errors in English” by Paul Brians is an outstanding resource. Click the link and you will see that just about every base is covered, including “cheese quesadilla” and “lol”. I love what is said about lol; “It is no longer considered hip or sophisticated, and you won’t impress or entertain anyone by using it.” That is the truth. You will be able to confidently write “I decided to lay on the bed, unsure for whom it was made.”

Do you plan to write fiction? Kurt Vonnegut provides Eight Rules for Writing Fiction. They are excellent. You will find out how to keep your story from getting pneumonia. Vonnegut also offers “How to write with Style” and the man knew what he was talking about. I like that he tells you to “Pity the readers”. Both links are entertaining and short reads. He also refers you to “Elements of Style”, giving that link more literary street-cred.

“Writerisms and other Sins: A Writer's Shortcut to Stronger Writing” by C.J. Cherryh will get your writing lean and mean. You will stand out from the crowd. Your vocabulary will not be more interesting than what you write. If you follow these twelve rules your writing will improve. I hope to follow them one day!

Having a bunch of rules handy is all well and good, but what if you are staring at the keyboard completely unable to get started on anything?

The effectively titled “7 Can't-Miss Ways to Kick-Start the Writing Habit” offers seven handy tips to, well, kick-start the writing habit. I've used them and they work. “Write crap without feeling guilty” is an excellent tip. Sometimes you really have to give yourself the freedom to just sit and write without worrying about the quality. Things will eventually start flowing. The site is a nice resource, as well.

“10 Killer Post Ideas” is helpful. I refer to this list whenever I am stuck. Tip two, about writing lists, took me from writer's block to the front page of Digg, twice in a row. I agree with Chris Garrett, people do love top ten lists. It is no accident the article itself is a top ten list.

Finally, this is a bit off-topic, but sometimes it is nice to refer to the Dalai Lama's “Instructions for life in the new millennium” to get some perspective on things. They aren't specific to Buddhism, they are written more from a humanitarian perspective. I find them refreshing to look at every now and then. Your mileage may vary.

If these links are of use to you, or you have your own, please leave a comment. We would love to hear what you think. Thank you for reading.