Ten Websites to Improve Your Writing

One of the things we do at the Writing Centre is show you the tools available online that can help you develop your writing skills. Here are ten of my favourites.

1.  Oxford English Dictionary 

This is a high quality dictionary that will help you determine if you’re using the right word in the right context. It features​:

  • etymologies
  • Word of the Day
  • grammar videos
  • spelling quizzes

sample dictionary entry

2.  A thesaurus

Most dictionary sites have an associated thesaurus, but this site specializes in synonyms, offering multiple pages of results divided by connotation and parts of speech. As an added bonus, you can search your word directly from the Google results page.

3. Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) 

This is a thorough, easy to navigate resource that will help you with almost any academic writing task. It features:

  • different style guides such as APA and MLA
  • how to do citations and bibliographies
  • sample pages
  • extensive online resources for writing across the disciplines

4.  Manchester Phrasebank   

This site is designed for non-native speakers of English who need standard phrases expressed in idiomatic English. It is especially good for students writing lab reports in STEM disciplines.

5.  Corpus of Contemporary American English 

This tool lets you look up clusters of words to see how often others have used them in academic writing. It will help you evaluate whether your word choices make sense.

6.  Word Count Tools 

This word counter goes above and beyond the standard word count your regular word processor gives you.  Cut and paste your writing into the field, and it will give you all kinds of cool information about what you’ve written.

sample report from wordcount website

7. WriteOnline  

WriteOnline is a new tool designed by the writing centres at Waterloo, Laurier, and Guelph. It’s a very handy resource that walks you through how to write lab reports, case studies, and reflective essays.

writeonline logo

8. The Writing Centre’s booking page  

This website allows you to book a one-on-one appointment at the University of Waterloo Writing Centre. You’ll have to register (it’s quick and painless), and then you can choose a time and instructor.  Any white blocks indicate an available appointment.

sample appointment schedule

9. Grammar Girl 

Grammar Girl is a great place when you feel like browsing basic and obscure grammar tips.  Is it affect or effect? A comma or a semicolon?  Altogether or all together? Grammar girl knows.

grammar girl logo

10. The University of Waterloo library 

The library’s website is your entry point for all your academic research needs. Find the databases for academically valid, peer-reviewed articles specific to your discipline.  Register for workshops about using the library and doing citations properly or book a quiet study space.

11. Bonus site: Anything you love to read! Reading more will improve your writing skills. Unless, of course, you’re only reading the comments section on YouTube.

These days I like to read The Walrus, a magazine about Canadian issues and culture. 

Do you have a favourite writing site? Let us know in the comments below.

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