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, contact me: / 304 283 4573.

NOTE: I recommend resources based on their merit alone. Still, where possible, I provide resource links through Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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.

Working Outline– 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. Those most relevant to environmental scientists working in a regulatory environment are listed here:

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


^Burchfield, R. W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press, 2004.

^Heffer, Simon. The Daily Telegraph Style Guide. Aurum, 2010.

International Ornithological Congress. IOC World Bird List.

Martin, Elizabeth. A Dictionary of Biology. Oxford University Press, 2008.

The Merck Index. 14th ed. Merck Publishing, 2006.

National Audubon Society Field Guides.

Nelson, Joseph. Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, 2004.

Nowak, R. M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. 6th edn. 2 vols. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

^Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers & Editors. Elizabeth A. Martin, ed. Oxford University Press, 2009.

^Ritter, Robert. Oxford Style Manual. Oxford University Press, 2003. NOTE: formerly The Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors and The Oxford Guide to Style (aka Hart’s Rules)

Robins, C., et al., World Fishes Important to North Americans. Special Publication 21. American Fisheries Society, 1991.

Turgeon, D. D., et al., Common and Scientific Names of Aquatic Invertebrates from the United States and Canada: Mollusks, 2nd ed. Special Publication 26. American Fisheries Society, 1998.

^Indicates references for international publications.


Alley, Michael. (2013). The Craft of Scientific Writing, Springer.

Baker, L. Michelle (2017). Writing in the Environmental Sciences: A Seven-Step Guide, Cambridge UP.

Bucchi, Massimiano and Brian Trench, eds. (2014). Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology, 2nd edn, Routledge.

Cargill, Margaret and Patrick O’Connor. (2009). Writing Scientific Research Articles, Wiley-Blackwell.

Day, Robert A. and Barbara Gastel. (2006). How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 6th edn, Cambridge UP.

Gregory, Jane and Steve Miller. (1998). Science in Public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility, Perseus Publishing.

Harmon, Joseph E. and Alan G. Gross. (2010). The Craft of Scientific Communication, U of Chicago P.

Hoffmann, Angelika. (2010). Scientific Writing and Communication: Papers, Proposals, and Presentations, Oxford UP.

Katz, Michael Jay. (2009). From Research to Manuscript, 2nd edn, Springer.

Matthews, Janice R. and Robert W. Matthews. (2008). Successful Scientific Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Biological and Medical Sciences, 3rd edn, Cambridge UP.

Montgomery, Scott L. (2003). The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, Chicago UP.

Schimel, Joshua. (2012). Writing Science: How to Write Papers that Get Cited and Proposals that Get Funded, Oxford UP.

Woodford, F. Peter. (1999). How to Teach Scientific Communication, Maureen E. Goode and Barbara Gastel, collaborators, Council of Biology Editors, 1999.


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 AND Stephen King – On Writing. The musings of two writers about the practice of writing.

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


Acronyms – The United States Government uses many abbreviations, which can easily become confusing. This resource is an authoritative guide to the government’s agency acronyms, from the American Battle Monuments Commission to the Wage and Hour Division. The book in which this list appears, the Government Manual, is a super-useful guide to the makeup of the United States Federal Government.

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.

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.

Making Regulations Readable – A resource available through the Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook. The resource is relatively old, but its advice remains sound.

The Nature of Americans: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection – a commissioned report about the relationship America’s children and adults have to nature and how agencies such as the National Park Service can usefully foster such relationships.

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.

Readability scores: Confused about readability scores? This article, forwarded to me by Maggie O’Connell (Branch Chief for Visitor Services, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System), analyzes the readability scores of many popular writers and explains several scoring systems.

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

Vexing vocabulary in submissions to the Journal of Wildlife Management – A short article explaining the difference between commonly confused words in scientific articles.


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.