Study Up: Language Resources for Continually Learning PR Pros
January 2, 2014
Is “selfie” really a word? What does “LTE” mean — as in “LTE networks?” And what does the British English term “full stop” mean in American English?
It used to be that the Associated Press Stylebook and a good dictionary could keep up with new words and the latest dos and don’ts of the English language. But with the rise of the Internet, social media and mobile technology, among other factors, new words are being propagated and language rules are evolving at breakneck speed through an ever-wider range of channels.
As a result, today’s rapidly evolving language has become too large and fast moving for any one stylebook to keep pace, and PR pros are frequently in need of additional resources to learn the latest rules of the road for the English language.
The list below offers a set of resources — all online and all free. They include: two globally recognized style guides, several dictionaries for in-depth information on topics such as British English, tech and slang words, and some of the top social media sites for the latest commentary on English usage.
Together, these resources provide PR pros with a powerful arsenal to supplement the AP Stylebook and to sharpen their writing.
- Chicago Manual of Style Q&A: Although most of this site is only accessible with a subscription, you can view the Q&A section — a treasure trove of authoritative answers to current questions on such areas as capitalization, punctuation, tricky word uses and myths of the English language — for free.
- The Economist Style Guide: For those working with British English, this guide by one of the pre-eminent magazines in the U.K. is one of the best alternative resources to the AP Stylebook.
- American Heritage Dictionary: There are several good online dictionaries, but what makes the American Heritage a cut above the rest is that it doubles as a usage guide. For example, under the definition for “assure,” there is a note explaining the distinctions between “assure,” “ensure” and “insure.”
- Cambridge Dictionaries: Do you need a resource to find a definition of an unfamiliar British English term and what its American English equivalent is? I recommend the Cambridge Dictionaries.
- Computer Desktop Encyclopedia: This is a comprehensive guide for everything tech, with more than 25,000 entries and a publication history going back to 1980.
- Urban Dictionary: It provides the lowdown on the latest street lingo, slang and catch phrases. If you can’t find a term among its 7 million-plus entries, then it isn’t out there yet.
- Bill Walsh (@TheSlot): The Washington Post copy editor is the author of three books on grammar and style and a leading wordsmith in the journalism profession. His tweets offer interesting examples of errors that daily make it into publication.
- Bryan Garner (@BryanAGarner): Garner is the closest thing that the United States has to a dean of American English. His classic “Garner’s Modern American Usage” is among the more than 25 books on language or law that he has authored or contributed to, and he shares and expounds on his wisdom on his Twitter feed.
- You Don’t Say: John McIntyre, a copy editor at The Baltimore Sun for more than 30 years, is a wicked wit who writes on issues ranging from the myth of split infinitives, to the emergence of new clichés, to the danger of using Wikipedia as a source, in his well-regarded blog.
- After Deadline: Published by one of the most venerable journalistic institutions in the United States, this blog examines current grammar and style issues that The New York Times writers encounter. Philip Corbett, manager of the Times style manual, operates the blog.
- Grammar Girl: For lighter reading, this site has become something of a national phenomenon in the last few years, tackling current conundrums of the English language in a way that is upbeat, easy to understand and fun.
On a final note, a “selfie” (a picture that you take of yourself and then post on social media) isn’t an official dictionary word yet, but it certainly is a slang word that is growing in usage. “LTE” stands for “Long Term Evolution” and is the newest version of mobile networks offering higher speeds. And a “full stop” in British English means a “period” — the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence — in American English.
Do you have any resources that you would add to this list? Please email me if you do.
Joseph Priest is a corporate writer at Syniverse, a mobile solutions company headquartered in Tampa, Fla. He co-manages Syniverse’s corporate style guide and blog (blog.syniverse.com).
Email: joseph.priest at syniverse.com