Monday, August 27, 2012

Keeping the Bubble Between the Lines

By Pamela

Yesterday my husband bravely scaled a dangerously high ladder and installed some curtain rods for me in our living room, aka The Yellow Room, as not much 'living' really goes on in there. As I stood safely on solid ground (Do you sense I'm not a fan of ladders?), he fired away questions: How high do you want them? How far out from the window? Does my butt look good from down there? (Kidding on the last one.)

My second-in-command, aka my nine-year-old wanna-be decorator, put in her two-cents. "I'm thinking you'll need that bubble stick to make sure it's not crooked," she offered.

"I got the bubble stick," her dad responded. To me he said, "Can you hand me the level?"

While writing I keep an arsenal of tools at the ready. Of course I couldn't write as efficiently and effectively without my computers and the software someone so brilliantly created, but I also heavily rely on the Web, not only for research but for making sure I can find the answers to any grammar issues that threaten to trip up my writing.

Because I write and edit for a publication that adheres to Associated Press Guidelines, I use quite frequently. So if I need to know if it's kick-boxing, kickboxing or kick boxing, I can go there for help. I have a paid subscription but if you want a free way to check you can 'like' AP Stylebook on facebook and the editors will answer questions you post. Or you can call me and I'll look it up.

I don't know about you but some grammar situations my pea-sized brain never seems to fully grasp. Who/whom is one. For those occasions I head over to Grammar Girl for her Quick and Dirty Tips. If similar words such as further vs. farther trip you up or you wonder if you should use e.g. or i.e., check out her site.

Joan sent me a link to Writer's Digest the other day that helped explain 'that vs. which' and my guess is we probably all get it wrong from time to time. is a good tool to have in your toolbox for those times when a grammar question stops you in your tracks.

I haven't used it lately, but I've also been known to pick a fight with Googlefight when it comes to a word choice. Googlefight, which has nothing to do with Google, will let your words duke it out to see which is more widely accepted online. I remember trying to decide if a racetrack had 'pit row' or 'pit road.' When I used Googlefight, pit road was the clear winner but I did more research and determined that one is used in NASCAR and the other in Indy Car races. (Don't ask me which one is which--I've already forgotten.)

Of course there's and other helpful tools every writer uses. But what's your off-the-beaten-path site you go to most? What's the bubble stick your writing would get all wonky without?


  1. OWL at Purdue University! Not so much anymore, but while I was editing, it was the most helpful site I found that was free. (anymore? any more?) ;)

  2. Thanks, Julie. I will check that out.

  3. I love grammar girl. I've learned a lot from that site, but lol, reading this post gave me a headache thinking of my own grammar woes. I think I have who/whom down fairly well, but there's a lot of other words that trip me up. Like breath/breathe. UGH. I'll never get the difference between the two!

  4. I know, E.B. Everyone has his or her grammatical Achilles Heel. That's why trusted beta readers are invaluable. I hope you have yours!


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