Top Grammar and Usage Advice Sites

Have you ever wondered about the origin of colloquial phrases like "the bee's knees" or "sharp as a tack?" Well, if you have, an editor is standing by at "Language Matters at Oxford Dictionaries' website with an explanation. 

"Language Matters" is just one of the sites we regularly visit for answers to questions about some of the finest and fussiest aspects of the English language. The answers to queries like "is speechwriter one or two words?" and "Which is correct: Web Site, Website, Website or website?" can be found by simply searching the site. 

All of the following sites provide expert answers to queries such as these as well as online reference materials to help you better understand the nuances of English and its use. Hosted by publishers of major style and usage guides, the following sites should help next time you're stumped by another English quandary.

Associated Press Stylebook

In this handy feature of the Associated Press Stylebook's website, registered users can pose questions to the current acting editor. Currently, David Minthorn is the acting AP Stylebook editor and when explains the difference between "pixelated" —a "non-word" in his judgment — and "pixilated," we take him seriously. Mr. David Minthorn is also the editor of "The AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law."

What's really great about this resource is that it acts as an archive of all questions asked about grammar and usage and it evolves as the AP style does. Minthorn even encourages readers to search through past questions, using the most recent answer as the standard.  More »

Though this Oxford University Press site promises to answer "fairly broad" questions "on grammar, usage or words," you'll also find some pretty esoteric information here: the longest English word ("floccinaucinihilipilification"), the plural of "octopus" ( "octopodes" or "octopus" or "octopi") and the explanation for that old-fashioned "f" characters in place of "s" characters was actually just a modern misunderstanding of the former symbol being an elongated "s" character — which fell out of fashion with printers suddenly around 1780. 

For this database, you can either search the website for specific language questions (like the above) or browse through the articles and questions already posed and featured on the main landing page.  More »

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"Q and A" at the Chicago Manual of Style Online

Updated monthly, the Chicago site is pickier than the others, giving "preference to questions that are not answered here or in the 'Manual,' and that cannot be answered with a dictionary." Fortunately, this leads to some dynamic content not found in any other resource guides. 

Plus, the editor can be delightfully huffy. In fact, to one inquiry about the spelling of "cell phone" — which was asked with a request for a quick response — the editor answered, "Any writer who has deadlines should also have a dictionary. I always swear I’'m not going to look up words for people, but it's like being a mom and picking up socks— — something just makes me do it. It's “cell phone.” Please buy a dictionary — and pick up your socks." Funny, right?