Even if you’re a punctilious writer who prides himself on never splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition, chances are that you have grammar questions sometimes. We’ve all struggled to keep our homonyms, homophones, and homographs straight. Even experienced writers sometimes stop to think about “affect” vs. “effect”, or where a colon should be placed. Despite the challenges of grammar, readers are not always forgiving when glaring grammatical mistakes are made. Poor grammar ruins a company’s credibility. One study of UK consumers found that 59 percent of consumers would not use a company with obvious grammatical mistakes on its website or marketing materials. This is why grammar books, especially ones found online in this tech-savvy era, are so important for a writer.
Another marketing firm conducted their own survey. Almost all participants said grammatical errors affect the likelihood that they would use, buy, or endorse a product or service. Simply put, poor grammar will hurt your bottom line. Thankfully, we’re not left to navigate the grammar maze alone. Grammar checkers, guides, tips, and editors are now available at our fingertips for free. If you want to brush up on your grammar, check out some free resources for the best grammar books online:
1. The Elements of Style
Let’s start with the gold standard for grammar books, The Elements of Style. In its 50 years of circulation, 10 million copies have been sold, and the book has affectionately been called “The Writer’s Bible”. Time magazine listed it among its 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923. In addition to grammar rules, this grammar book is a favorite for its clear, straightforward writing advice. The authors, Strunk and White, emphasize concise writing with no unnecessary words.
When it comes to authority in the writing community, its authors have plenty. William Strunk Jr. wrote the original for his Cornell University English class. His student E.B. White expanded later versions to the guide we know today. You may know White for his children’s books, including the famous Charlotte’s Web.
Even its biggest fans, however, admit the book has some drawbacks. The biggest is that it is largely a book of style, with few hard-and-fast rules. The bold statements made by Strunk and White lead readers to assume everything they say is a rule when many statements are really about style choices.
The criticism has done little to challenge the book’s credibility, though. The New York Times called it “a splendid trophy for all who are interested in reading and writing”. It’s still a must-have addition to any writer’s library. Download a free copy of the PDF.
2. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
The actual book version of this guide has been a favorite of teachers and students for years, and the online version is just as valuable. With clear rules and real-world examples, this grammar book is at the top of the user-friendly list. While few grammar books make for exciting reads, users prefer this one because of its engaging format.
There is a charge for full online access, but The Blue Book has numerous free resources, including grammar guides, punctuation rules, capitalization rules, and common mistakes. It’s a great free resource for the average business person, student, or teacher. You can also sign up for a free grammar newsletter, take quizzes, and watch videos about common grammar issues.
This one isn’t a book, but if you need your writing looked over, Grammarly is a great tool. According to Top Ten Reviews, Grammarly scores a 9.35 / 10 in the world of online grammar checkers. It’s marketed as your “automated proofreader and virtual grammar coach,” and boasts that it can find up to 250 types of grammatical errors. It’s easy to use and walks writers through the process of making corrections.
The platform displays a complete breakdown of your mistakes to the right of the text, and as a full-color error summary in PDF format. Users also like Grammarly because it also checks for plagiarism, a mistake that will ruin your credibility even more than poor grammar.
4. Grammar Girl
Did you ever think a grammar book would make the New York Times bestseller list? Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty made it happen. She started a few years ago with witty and engaging podcasts that covered common grammar mistakes. Twenty-million downloads later, Grammar Girl is a household name among students, teachers, and writers. She has given out her gems via Oprah, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
Grammar Girl is more than just a collection of grammar rules. You’ll learn memory tips to help retain all those rules in a fun and engaging way. Online reviews even have readers admitting to “laughing out loud.” Plus, Fogarty goes beyond the rules to give general tips on writing techniques for different purposes, including e-mail, business letters, and blogging.
Good grammar enhances your credibility and makes the intent of your writing clearer. Gone are the days of having to thumb through an encyclopedia-sized book trying to answer your grammar questions. Take advantage of grammar books and other resources available online.