It’s 2:00 am, you’re home, in your room, in front of a blank computer screen, and your English Composition assignment is due the next day. You haven’t even started. You’re stuck and have a thousand questions, but the campus Writing Center isn’t open until Monday. You need help, and fast.
Never fear! Online help is here! Below is a rundown of the best of the best websites to answer your writing questions.
1. Purdue Owl Writing Lab (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/)
Purdue is the go-to source for students and often listed as a source in class syllabi. You can find help on anything from grammar and mechanics, the writing process, thesis statements, outlining, paragraphs, quoting, research, evaluating sources, MLA, APA, ESL – the list goes on and on. To see a comprehensive list of available online help, click on the sitemap.
If you’re not sure how to format a research paper, Purdue Owl offers several sample papers with instructional notations, as seen above.
2. LEO – Literacy Education Online – (https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/index.html)
Affiliated with the Writing Center at St. Cloud University, LEO offers an exhaustive list of lessons and handouts. On the homepage, you’ll find easy to navigate links that are listed by the problem a writer might be having, such as I want to make sure my ideas are logical; I’m not sure about where commas go; or I’m writing a research paper and want help with online sources. Each link will take you to additional, detailed links for specific help within each topic.
You could get lost in all the information LEO provides. Start with The Write Place Catalogue for a list of general topics and go from there.
3. Daily Grammar (http://www.dailygrammar.com/)
This lesser-known website does a great job of simplifying complex grammar subjects in fun, easy-to-understand lessons. If you’re looking for exercises to improve your grammar, Daily Grammar has loads of lessons and quizzes. Perfect for ESL students, the site offers 440 lessons and 88 quizzes. Have no idea what a compound sentence is? They also have a helpful Glossary of definitions to grammar terms.
Daily Grammar also has a blog where lessons are posted Monday-Friday, with a quiz on Saturday. This is a great website for all ability levels.
4. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/writing)
Grammar Girl is popular with students for its humorous, easy-to-understand explanations of grammar rules. Though it’s not the easiest to navigate, you can find short articles on simple topics, such as ‘Cannot,’ ‘Can Not,’ or ‘Can’t’: What’s the Difference? or Affect Versus Effect, and even How to Write Good Survey Questions.
While you won’t find handouts or quizzes, Grammar Girl offers a lot of useful information not only on grammar rules but loads of examples of idioms useful for ESL students.
5. Hemingway (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/)
We had to include one writing app, and Hemingway is getting decent reviews. It works like spellcheck, but is focused on style.
It does a great job of highlighting sentence-level problems, such as overly complex sentences and poor word choices. Do you tend to overuse adverbs? Hemingway will highlight those in blue. Have a problem with passive construction or confusingly-worded sentences? Hemingway will highlight those in yellow.
I pasted the above paragraph into Hemingway, and here’s what it told me:
The awkward adverb is highlighted in blue, and the entire sentence is highlighted yellow, indicating I might need to shorten or reword it.
The app also gives an assessment of the reading level of your writing, and posts the numbers of words, sentences and paragraphs. Although MS Word has some of the same functionality, Hemingway allows you to paste your writing right into the app and gives you immediate feedback, including why the changes are suggested, making it a nifty learning tool as well.
What are your go-to websites or apps for writing help?