Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!
The Back to School season is officially here, not only for the young kids but also for many of us big kids who are continuing our education through universities, night schools or distance learning programs. In time we will be assigned book reports, research papers and the like. For those of us who dread going to the library we can use the Internet to minimize the amount of time spent there. There are numerous resources available on-line for the writer in all of us.
We've found the Internet houses a great number of common reference materials, all on-line and easily accessible. Almost all students will have to write some sort of assignment in their classes. The first tool most writers use is a dictionary and the most common dictionary is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www-lj.eb.com/mw/). It has a simple interface that makes looking up words a breeze.
Another place to look is Dictionary.Com (www.dictionary.com) which is an index of useful tools for writers. Included is a link to Rogets Internet Thesaurus (www2.thesaurus.com/thesaurus/). Its as simple to use as typing in the word you want to find a synonym for and pressing the return key. Another useful tool is Bartlett's Quotations (www.columbia.edu/acis/bartleby/bartlett/) where you can find familiar passages or phrases from literature. Unable to figure out what that acronym means? Go to the World Wide Web Acronym and Abbreviation Server (www.ucc.ie/info/net/acronyms/acro.html) and see its expansion. If you are unsure of your syntax, take a look at Strunk's Elements of Style (www.columbia.edu/acis/bartleby/strunk).
Practically speaking having a desk reference of these resources would be invaluable for any writer, though we doubt that everyone has their copy of the Elements of Style nearby on their desk. And surprisingly, we found that we could look up a quote or word more quickly on the Internet than we could with our own reference books. Of course it's nice to have a printed copy in front of you, but that's what printers are for!
A note about dictionaries: someone on the net has created a dictionary for many popular genres of terms. For example, performing a search of "dictionary" at Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) returned over 200 hits. There are dictionaries pertaining to Railroad Terms (www.railwayex.com/OnlineTraining/Dictionary), a Biographical Index of famous people (www.tiac.net/users/parallax/), and a Legal Dictionary from the World Wide Legal Information Association (www.islandnet.com/~wwlia/diction.htm) just to name a few of the available dictionaries. The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (wombat.doc.ic.ac.uk) is particularly useful for looking up computer terminology.
If you're looking for on-line Encyclopedias you may be a bit disappointed. We recommend searching your favorite search engine for a comprehensive list or some free options. At this point, we haven't found anything that's both free and comprehensive.
If you need help with your grammar you can get that from the Internet as well. The 11 Rules of Grammar (ucsu.colorado.edu/~giaquint/grammar.htm) is a concise writer's guide to the most frequently violated rules of grammar, with dynamic links to more detailed online references. You can also submit your grammar questions to the English Grammar Clinic (www.edunet.com/english/clinic-h.html) for answers by professional English language instructors.
There are also some less traditional, though no less useful style guides available on the Internet. The Slot (www.theslot.com) is part style manual, part pet-peeve collection of one copy editor's look at how to use, and how not to use, the English language. Included is the entertaining and informative "Curmudgeons Stylebook" which is an opinionated and thorough guide to the many things that can go wrong in print. Though we found the banging type-writer keys get a bit annoying after the third or fourth time back to the site (if you have sound capabilities on your PC you'll know what I mean).
We also found some pages that had great advice for writing different types of academic papers. Five Tools for Writing Timed Essays (splavc.spjc.cc.fl.us/hooks/hooksessay.html) is one student's advice for developing skills for writing under pressure when you don't have your textbooks - or the Internet -available to bail you out. The Guide for Writing Research Papers (webster.commnet.edu/Library/mla.htm) is also a handy reference for the guidelines to that big term paper you've got due later this semester. And one that we found very helpful is World Wide Words (clever.net/quinion/words/citation.htm). This page details how to cite online sources of information in the footnotes or bibliographies of research papers.
If, like us, you get confused by the English language, you might want to take a look at these pages to help clear up any discrepancies. The Heteronym Homepage (www-personal.umich.edu/~cellis/heteronym.html) is for words that are spelled identically but have different meanings when pronounced differently. For example "lead" which can mean "to guide" or "is a metallic element". The Homograph Page (members.aol.com/jvahsholtz/homograph/homograph.html) is about words that have identical spellings but different pronunciations and different meanings. This page can help clear up any confusion you may have had. Personally, if we were that confused, we'd just pick another word.
Finally, if you have to write a paper there is no better way to learn how than to read the Classics. If you are studying literature or enjoy a good read you will want to check out the Internet for the many resources available. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (the-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/works.html) is a site which offers not only all the Great Bard's works on-line, but also a discussion area, a comprehensive search feature, and a list of Shakespeare resources on the Internet - and there are many. This site is very complete and a must-see for anyone who has read or is studying Shakespeare.
The Internet Classics Archive (the-tech.mit.edu/Classics/) is an award-winning, searchable collection of almost 400 classical Greek and Roman texts (in English translation of course!). It includes links to notable works such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Plato's Republic and The Hippocratic Oath, just to name a few.
We want to continue to help you utilize the Internet in your life. Let us know what you're interested in and we'll check it out. You can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.