Writer’s Toolbox

You want to be a real writer. Or maybe you just want better grades. But you don’t know where to start. It’s ok. I didn’t either. But I can tell you now one great way to start: build your toolbox.

Great writing doesn’t come naturally. It’s an art, a skill to be learned and refined. Every great writer has his own tools. Even if you just want to make it through college papers, you’ll need your own tools. You can pick up any of these cheaply at your nearest used bookstore, or at websites like half.com. Here are my suggestions:


The dictionary is an alphabetical listing of words and their meanings.

The dictionary has more uses than most people realize. Yeah, you can find the meaning of words you don’t know. That’s obvious. But would you think to use the dictionary to find history, alternate spellings, correct plural forms, grammar functions, and proper pronunciation of words? Some dictionaries even offer synonyms (words with similar meanings) and antonyms (opposites).

Merriam Webster is a classic dictionary. I recommend using http://merriam-webster.com . I keep a link in the side bar for your convenience.


A thesaurus is a book of words and their synonyms grouped (usually) topically. The easiest way to find synonyms for a specific word is to use the index, which is usually listed alphabetically. The thesaurus is where I turn when I can’t think of a specific word, but I can think of one that’s either close or the opposite of it. I’ll look up what I know until I find the word I can’t remember.

You can also find a thesaurus on merriam-webster.com.

Grammar Handbook

A grammar handbook is the Grammarian’s how-to book. It will list and explain grammar terms and rules. Sometimes the rules are the grammarian’s preference, but usually they are tried-and-true ways to write well. There are hundreds and hundreds of grammar handbooks out there. If you’re a college student, your English teacher will probably recommend one.

There are thousands of writers’ self-help books. I recommend a few that I use. Used bookstores and libraries often carry several more that are worth checking out. You don’t have to own even one of these to be a great writer, but it is often helpful to read other writers’ suggestions.

When you have and know how to use these tools, you’re well on your way to improving your writing. The next step is: write!

If this article has helped you, or if you have other questions about this topic, please let me know. Thanks!

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