Remember the days when research was not done online but in line. Specifically, in line at the public library.
Oh, those were the good old days, weren’t they? Well, maybe not. Not if you had to walk five miles to the library and then five miles back at night (the distance from the Medford Public Library to my house on Monument Street by the Mystic River, eh, I mean, Mystic Rivuh).
Of course, nowadays, we can do all of our research online. This means we have less exercise from walking. We don’t have to leave the house. We don’t get bothered by loud library patrons. Yep, we get to be anti-social, overweight, out of shape couch potatoes.
Anyway, I guess I should get to the gist of this piece, which is that the resources are basically the same. We’ve just jumped from one medium to another.
What are the online resources I use most in my writing?
I have four online resources that I use heavily. Three of them should be pretty easy to figure out (that is, for anyone who didn’t participate in the current American educational system).
For those not in the know, this means “encyclopedia,” “dictionary” and “thesaurus.”
First up is the encyclopedia. We know it as Wikipedia. Apparently, Wikipedia has information on everything. Whereas Encyclopedia Britannica would never deign to do a write-up on Jessica Simpson’s or Paris Hilton’s younger sisters, Wikipedia will.
Another big difference is that Encyclopedia Britannica pays lots of people to verify the information it puts out. Wikipedia counts on the general public for information. Talk about being ripe for disinformation, misinformation and mistakes. Why, even a housewife from New Jersey and living in Virginia could send in something that could appear on Wikipedia.
So, why do I use it? As I said, Wikipedia will talk about Jessica Simpson’s sister and Encyclopedia Britannica won’t. I’m just looking for enough information to make my characters sound like they know what they’re talking about.
Secondly, we have the dictionary. Online, it’s dictionary.com. And while we’re at it, let’s include the third common item – the thesaurus. Thesaurus.com is the brother (or sister) of dictionary.com and both are part of Ask.com.
I like these sites. They’re way cool. Both have “Word of the Day” and “Question of the Day” features. For instance, Sunday’s question of the day is: Are book titles underlined, italicized or put in quotations?
The answer, by the way, is “for longer written works like plays and novels, italicize. Underline if you can’t italicize. Use quotes for titles within titles.”
The word of the day was “Zephyr.” The cool breeze, not the car.
Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are full of gems like those. And they’re good for looking up word meanings or if you need synonyms, homonyms or antonyms. Some people might even use them to find a way to brutally do away with that essential part of speech called the adverb.
Last but not least, we get to the main online source I use – Google.
In order to get to Wikipedia, I Google things – Wicked Writers, Examiner.com, red herrings, Maurice Broaddus (you’ll get the reference tomorrow). You can get all your questions asked, like “Why in the hell is Chef Gordon Ramsey still alive?”
Google also brings up tons of other websites that contain the information I need (along with about 10,000 other sites nobody really needs, except the ones soon to be converted to .xxx).
Compare that to Bing. Bing is almost as good as Google, but Google windows don’t pop up every time you bump your mouse across any word containing a vowel.
I don’t know what other online resources my fellow bloggers use, but feel free to partake of mine. You have my permission.