The following resources are recommended by Michelle Baker, PhD, The Conservation Writing Pro. If you’re at all serious about your writing, you need the right tools at your disposal, and this is a good start. If your organization needs Training or Editing services, contact me: / 304 283 4573.


21 Hacks for Word for Writers – A blog post with tips about how to use Microsoft more effectively.

Audience Chart – Spreadsheet to complete for each document type you write, with questions to contemplate about the people you write for.

Chart of Transitional Expressions – Organized by part of speech and by type of logical connection.

Editing Plan – Spreadsheet that identifies editing tasks and aids in planning and tracking.

Large Document Management Plan – Spreadsheet that identifies subsections of a large document and aids in time and project management.

Sample Folder and File Structure for Large Documents – Brief illustration of how to organize documents for a large writing project.

Style Guide Checklist for Writers with the Department of the Interior – Checklist that asks what type of document you are writing and then references the style guides you should reference, and in what order you should apply their guidance.

Writing As a Team Slideshare – Presentation offers guidance for collaborative writing projects.


Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. With CD-ROM and online subscription.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 6th ed

One of the top four grammar handbooks on the market. You can select any of the following that feels comfortable to you:

A style guide. The three most relevant to government biologists are:

NOTE: For documents that will be published in the Federal Register, additional guidance is available in the Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook.


A usage manual – one formal and one quirky.

  • Garner’s Modern American Usage. – the most formal of the bunch. And in one sense the most useful as a reference work because of its organization and arrangement.
  • Evan Jenkins – That or Which, and Why. Short, pithy explanations make this a fun book to read in short bursts over your morning coffee break.
  • Lynne Truss – Eats, Shoots and Leaves. If you care about commas, you’ll love Truss’ no-nonsense approach to punctuation.

Joseph Williams – Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Many editions available. Any will do. Designed for self-study, with appendices, a glossary, and answers to selected exercises.

William Zinsser – On Writing Well. A mixture of practical advice and inspirational lamentation.

Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird.

Stephen King – On Writing.

The musings of two creative writers about the practical realities of the writing life.

James Lipton – An Exaltation of Larks. A collection of collective nouns. Did you know that a flock of finches is called a charm?

Carol Fisher Saller – The Subversive Copy Editor. Brilliant advice for anyone who has challenging conversations with writers.


Common Errors in English Usage – Dr. Paul Brians of Washington State University maintains an exhaustive list of the finer nuances that make our language rich and, dare I say?, exotic. If you find the site overwhelming, you can always have one error a day delivered to your Facebook feed when you like Dr. Brians’ page.

Commonly Confused Words – a helpful database created by the reading lab at Santa Monica Community College.

Compounding rules – Chart from the Chicago Manual of Style listing all rules for hyphenating to create compound modifiers, arranged by category, part of speech, specific terms, and prefixes.

Copyeditor’s Knowledge Database – curated by KOK Edit. If you edit or review anyone’s work, bookmark this site.

Daily Writing Tips – Get a quick shot of English emailed directly to you every day. Mark Nichol’s articles range from synonyms to historical trivia to grammar quizzes (answers included, of course).

Federal Plain Language Guidelines – On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order making plain language a legal requirement for all government writing. Learn how to implement the Plain Language Act of 2010 and do your part to keep our democracy transparent.

Grammar Girl – Mignon Fogarty has been offering Podcasts for years. Get a daily dose of language advice that you can listen to during your morning commute, while you’re working out, or over lunch.

OWL – Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. Contains answers to just about any writing question you might have, with great examples, and easy-to-read explanations.

Top 10 Grammar Apps – A compilation of the best grammar, language, and word apps (free and paid) for iPod and Android devices.



Mignon Fogarty – The Grammar Girl does more than podcast. Follow her on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Google+. She’s also published several books, including Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from the Grammar Girl, and Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart.

Brendan Kenny – A lawyer who writes about plain language. He blogs at and can be found on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman – Journalists with the New York Times and creators of Grammarphobia, a daily blog that addresses reader’s worst fears about the English language. Also check out their bestsellers Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English and Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing.

Bruce Ross-Larson, Blogger and writing trainer at, a division of Communications Development, Inc. Author of Edit Yourself  and the Effective Writing Series, available as a compilation or individually.