From Category: Reference Sites
Bloomsbury's free online guide for unpublished writers gives wise advice: "An enquiry letter should be business-like. Don't grovel ('it would be an honour to be published by so distinguished a firm'), don't make jokes ('my Mum says it's smashing, but maybe you'll think she's prejudiced'), don't be aggressive ('I have chosen you to publish my book, kindly send me your terms by return')." Also free on the site, links to UK and Irish agents, US agents, and a searchable online database of cultural reference books.
Parents, educators, and teenagers will benefit from the New York Public Library's list of recommended YA books about gender identity, last updated in 2015. These fiction and nonfiction books can help schools create a more welcoming and diverse environment.
A project of Karen Yin, the writer/editor behind the popular "AP vs. Chicago" copyeditors' website, Conscious Style Guide is a simple and accessible community resource for anyone curious or serious about conscious language. In one place, you can access style guides covering terminology for various communities and find links to key articles debating usage. Categories include ability/disability, gender, age, appearance, ethnicity, and more.
A monthly membership fee of $10 buys an e-newsletter subscription and access to the Daily Writing Tips archive with hundreds of articles on grammar, style, word usage, and spelling. Articles are grouped by broad category (e.g. Vocabulary or Business Writing) but not easily searchable by topic.
The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority, and sensitivity. This guide, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations, and other resources.
Find ebooks by your favorite authors at this search site. Thousands of titles listed. Look up ebooks by author, title, keyword, subject, publisher, ISBN and format.
Enigma Public bills itself as the world's broadest collection of public data. Signup is free. Search a wide variety of state, national, and international government data on health, finance, public works, science, population demographics, and more. There are also databases from famous museums, research universities, major corporations and trade associations, and international institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations.
ExpertAccess is a membership group offering discounted rates for freelance writers to purchase access to LexisNexis, a premium subscription database of U.S. case law, statutes, and news articles. Writers also receive training in how to use LexisNexis. ExpertAccess is a project of the Contently Foundation, which nurtures investigative journalism.
Food Timeline is a free open-access archive and research service about culinary history. It is maintained by Lynne Olver, a reference librarian in New Jersey. Fiction writers can use the site to fact-check historically accurate cuisine for their book's setting and time period. Email questions are typically answered within 24 hours. Read a feature about Food Timeline on the blog of the literary journal Ploughshares.
From abcedarian to zeugma, this is one of the best poetry glossaries we've seen. Hosted by Robert Shubinski, it provides definitions, pronunciation guides, examples and cross-references. Browse through poetry's wide array of techniques, styles and themes. A great place to get ideas.
The Poetry Foundation provides this glossary of poetic terms, with links to examples by outstanding contemporary and classic poets.
Google Lit Trips is a computer-based resource that uses satellite and street view data from Google Maps to visualize the travel routes of characters in hundreds of great books for readers of all ages. Parents and educators can use Google Lit Trips to enliven lessons about geography, history, and foreign cultures.
Have you ever used the word "flaunt" when you meant "flout"? Unsure about the difference between "affect" and "effect"? This cleanly laid out reference site provides an alphabetical list of commonly confused word pairs, with explanations of appropriate usage. Other features include a list of idioms with their meaning and history, and basic rules of grammar and spelling.
Have you had a poem published in an amateur or "vanity" poetry anthology, which you would like to find again? The Library of Congress website gives you tips and links to start tracking down your poem in various reference archives, as well as advice for avoiding contest scams.
Iowa State University maintains this website featuring definitions of over 30 early musical instruments, with illustrations and audio clips. Writers of historical fiction will find this site useful for fact-checking or just creating a mood while they envision their characters' next adventure.
Online writing community for freelance journalists and general-interest essayists. Membership is free, with possible payment for articles accepted for publication on the site. Members also get access to contest listings and publishers' guidelines.
The Ritman Library in Amsterdam, also known as the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, is the world's largest library of occult books, with some 25,000 texts on topics such as Hermetics, Rosicrucians, Theosophy, alchemy, mysticism, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Anthroposophy, Catharism, Freemasonry, Manichaeism, Judaica, the Grail, Esotericism, and comparative religion. They are in the process of digitizing their collection as the Hermetically Open Archive, a free online archive that will eventually make the contents of the library accessible to all. Partially funded by author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), the archive is seeking more sponsors and volunteers to complete the project.
Historica Canada (formerly the Historica Dominion Institute) is a national nonprofit that helps Canadians connect with their country's history, culture, civic institutions, and democratic values. The site includes oral histories, aboriginal arts, lesson plans for educators, and the "Heritage Minutes" series of short documentary videos.
The New York Public Library's website features this growing archive of 17,000+ restaurant menus from the 1850s through today. A good resource for historical fiction writers to discover notable restaurants from their book's era and what the characters might have eaten.
On this website, you can catalog your books online and connect to other readers who share your interests.
LibraryThing is a service that allows members to catalog and search the books they own. Members can also participate in discussion forums, such as Name That Book, which helps you remember the title and author of a book you can describe but can't name.
Visual history of war, religion, and government. Animated maps show the rise and fall of empires over the centuries.
These lively short videos from dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster discuss the origins of words and resolve common questions of grammar and usage. Is "irregardless" a real word? What is the correct plural of "octopus"? How do you use singular "they" grammatically? Now you will know.
Located in Brooklyn, this research library and private collection surveys the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture. It makes available a collection of books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts relating to medical museums, anatomical art, collectors and collecting, cabinets of curiosity, the history of medicine, death and mortality, memorial practice, art and natural history, arcane media, and more. The accompanying website includes links to other resources on these topics. (Photographs on the site may disturb the squeamish.)
This free online forum for mystery writers includes boards for writing advice, the publishing business (agents, conferences, and trends), and crowdsourced research about how crimes are committed and solved. Wondering about courtroom procedure, legal ethics, or how various weapons and poisons work? Ask the forum.
Narrative Magazine, a well-regarded online journal, offers this free-to-access directory of links to literary conferences, books and articles with advice about writing, and degree programs in writing and publishing.
Not just for September 24 (the official date of this unofficial holiday), the National Punctuation Day site includes useful links to books, articles and websites to improve your grammar and punctuation. Never mix up "you're" and "your" again.
Search nearly 1,000 online reference works at once. Get definitions, translations, rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, encyclopedia articles and more. Fast and practical. A good place to start any research project.
OneLook is a search engine that aggregates word definitions from over 1,000 dictionaries. There is also a reverse dictionary search function, in which you can enter keywords to describe a concept, and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept.
Find out the origins of thousands of English words. Discovering how different words are interconnected can prompt some creative juxtapositions in your writing.
Etymology is the study of word origins and how vocabulary has changed over the centuries. This free reference site gathers data from several accepted etymology guides to create a searchable database. Blog entries on the site cover topics such as the development of modern English spelling, principles of etymology, and how to spot fake word derivations.
Conversion calculators for currency, clothing, cooking, computers, and weights and measures of all kinds. A gigabyte, for example, is 1,024 megabytes. The year MCMLXXXXIX is 1999. And in the kitchen, six drops make a pinch.
Onym's reference site collects resources to help you generate catchy and appropriate names for fictional characters, places, or products. In addition to the usual dictionaries, thesaurus, and baby name lists, Onym includes profession-specific glossaries (e.g. legal, nautical, and mathematical terms), historic slang, world mythology, and random word generators. (However, political sensitivity and avoiding cultural appropriation are up to you.)
Educational media website Open Culture provides this archive of over 500 literary classics available as free e-book downloads for your computer or mobile device. Genres include poetry, literary novels, science fiction, philosophy, and children's stories. There are also links to other free e-book libraries.
Purdue's Online Writing Lab has plucked out some of the more interesting links to research sites on the web. The English and Journalism categories will be of special interest to writers. The Voice of the Shuttle is particularly well regarded for humanities research.
The final haunts of your favorite poets, with special attention to those buried in England. Search by name or region. Includes short biographies and links to classic poems.
The Radical Copyeditor is a blog and editing service that keeps writers up-to-date on respectful ways to write about marginalized communities. Tips include recognizing biased reporting, a style guide for referring to transgender and nonbinary people, and unpacking the politics behind buzzwords like "alt-right" and "politically correct".
To celebrate the centennial of Children's Book Week in 2019, the US Library of Congress has made available a free digital collection of 100+ out-of-print, public-domain children's books from before 1924. These historically significant works include examples of the work of American illustrators such as W.W. Denslow, Peter Newell, and Howard Pyle, as well as works by renowned English illustrators Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane, and Kate Greenaway.
Searchable full text of many classic works of English and American literature.
Rhyme Desk is an interactive writing tool for poets, songwriters, and copywriters. Type in a word or phrase, then use the search buttons to count syllables, generate exact and slant rhymes, or find synonyms and antonyms. You can also use it to share your writing on Facebook and Twitter.
Links to dozens of online dictionaries, grammar and style guides, and copyright advice sites are among the most useful features of this website maintained by horror/suspense novelist John T. Cullen.
These amusing columns from Vulture.com music critic Dave Holmes are useful for writers researching popular culture of the 1980s and 1990s. They're also a humbling reminder of how quickly our favorite media seems dated. Trend-chasers beware.
A.M. Leibowitz, a popular author of LGBTQ fiction, created this extensive list in 2017 for Bisexual Visibility Week. It features dozens of bi authors, bloggers, and artists; books with accurate and positive representation of bi characters; writing groups and resources; and links to book lists on other websites.
Comprehensive general-interest and specialized dictionaries (e.g. medical, legal) plus a thesaurus and encyclopedia. Convenient cross-links help you bone up on a subject quickly. Culture and Fine Arts section includes introductions to poetry, literature, theater and the classics.
Unique online archive of quirky diagrams and illustrations from outdated reference books, which the library makes available for writers and visual artists to appropriate in their own work (within the bounds of copyright law). Interested in tennis manuals from 1948? How about 'Home Taxidermy for Pleasure and Profit'? For those with an offbeat sense of humor, the possibilities are endless. The library was started in 2002 by Andrew Beccone, contributing editor of the literary journal jubilat.
The Web of Language is Dennis Baron's blog focusing on newsworthy issues in grammar, language usage, and technology. Topics include the history of gender-neutral pronouns, America's politically motivated bans on using foreign languages, what makes a brand name a racial slur, and the interpretation of hate-crimes statutes.
The UCLA Children's Book Collection online archive offers free downloads of over 1,800 digital titles, from classics like Little Women and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to lesser-known public domain works from the 19th century and earlier.
The website of the University of Arizona Poetry Center features reference materials such as a digitized collection of writers' portrait photos, a blog with articles and interviews about poetry and education, and a basic guide to the poetry publication process.
Brief definitions of poetic forms and literary devices from Acatalectic to Zeugma.