A Quick Guide to 5 Online Grammar Resources

by Sara Rozenberg

Published at 2013-12-26

As editors, we use style guides and resources for particular projects to ensure that we follow consistent guidelines. Every now and then acquaintances ask me for simple answers to questions about grammar and spelling. I often have to say that “there is no right or wrong response; the answer to the question will depend on a few factors.”
Yes, it’s true that sometimes there are clear answers when it comes to grammar and spelling — if the error is clear and the rule straightforward. For example, a plural subject requires a plural verb: Thousands of Torontonian homes were without electricity for close to a week. “Thousands of homes” equal subject, “were” equal plural verb.
But oftentimes, the error may not be as straightforward. Grammar and usage evolves, and preferences exist, which can lead to exceptions to the rules, or to new usage. This is all to say, that as much as we refer to those straightforward rules for answers, as editors we are continually reading up on language trends and grammar debates to keep us informed of changes and options. For example, can you start a sentence with a preposition, or with “and” or “because”?
This week, we thought we’d post some useful online grammar resources. Whether you’d like to brush up on your grammar, read the debates, or get help with those not-so-simple answers, these grammar websites offer (at the very least) food for thought from helpful and reliable resources with simple tools to discussions about particular language styles.
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips
“Grammar Girl” is the online persona of Quick and Dirty Tips’ Mignon Fogarty, who offers regular tips on all things grammar. She also provides articles on the “Top 10 Grammar Myths,” quick notes about questions like when to use “who” vs. “whom,” and fun facts about language usage and etymology. This article on language, for example, discusses how language can change based on misunderstandings of a word’s meaning and how new words develop through “mishearings.” Did you know that an “umpire” used to be a “noumpere”? There’s no shortage of icons to click on when perusing the site, and Grammar Girl offers regular podcasts, too.
Simon Fraser University's "Self-Help" Editing Resources
One thing I love about SFU’s "Self-Help" Editing page is its list of “Plain Language Links” to websites like the Plain Language Association International. What is plain language? In a nutshell, the main objective of this type of writing is clarity. These plain-language sites are dedicated to tips and thoughts on how to develop writing that can be easily and quickly understood by readers.
In addition, SFU’s page offers useful links to general writing and grammar websites, as well as downloadable exercises on how to write “better sentences” and improve your punctuation.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is affiliated with the school’s award-winning writing lab. The website offers helpful resources on academic writing, applications, and research and citation guides. The citation guides are particularly useful if you’re new to citing texts and trying to sort through the basics of what’s involved.
The site also provides in-depth resources for project-specific writing (including business and résumé writing tips), writing for ESL students, and lesson plans for educators.
The Language Portal of Canada 
If you’re looking for a specifically Canadian context (and an official one at that), the Language Portal of Canada is an important one to visit. The site includes tools to help you find resources on topics like Canadian style, terminology, abbreviations, capitalization, and translation. These resources are offered in both English and French, and there are lots of quizzes available to test your grammar knowledge.
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is the website of the late Jane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. The site is an excellent and well-organized resource on general grammar rules and usage (leaning towards Chicago style). If you’re looking for a clear and complete overview on common topics, Grammar Book might be the place for you. The site also offers monthly grammar quizzes and other mini-tests to challenge your know-how.
A Few Other Resources
Copyediting Language in the Digital Age: Tip of the Week
Editors’ Association of Canada Resource Page
Canadian International English Learning Zone