Useful Reference Sites

Here are some links to sites that I reference often. I’ll keep adding to them every once in a while.

When I started proofreading at an ad agency, I was told to use for American spelling and not to use Wikipedia because anyone can edit the entries. Contributors are supposed to add credible sources, but as you can imagine in this era of “fake news,” some sources are not so truthful. 

And when looking for a good substitute word, this site also features a thesaurus:

I do use Wikipedia from time to time when I can’t find what I’m looking for, which may then lead me to a site that can verify the information. I always try to find three references for anything not easily found. If I can’t find a source, I’ll add a comment saying I can’t verify the information.

I use TERMIUM Plus® a lot – it’s the Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank. It includes writing guides and translation capabilities for four languages.

A great resource, funded by the Government of Canada:


Working in Quebec, I often use the Quebec government’s Le Grand dictionnaire terminologique to check translations and the correct spelling of place names.


I’ll often look something up on Grammar Girl, a site created by Mignon Fogarty. She has a fun and entertaining way of explaining complicated grammar rules.


I’ll visit English Language & Usage Stack Exchange for answers to obscure grammar problems I can’t find elsewhere. It’s a Q&A format with the most agreed-upon answer voted up. There are, of course, numerous opinions and you’ll have to decide which one you agree with the most.

Oxford Reference is a great online resource with entries from Oxford University Press’s dictionaries, companions and encyclopedias, available on a subscription basis. I’ve discovered there’s a useful quick reference section where you can find the correct spelling of a word without a subscription. To find out how to spell “organization,” type in the word, click the checkbox next to “Search within my subject specialization,” click the small triangle and choose “English Dictionaries and Thesauri” to see British, American, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian spellings of the word.

The World Factbook is an exhaustive reference for information such as maps, flags, history and geography of countries around the world, provided by none other than the CIA.

I’ve been using The Chicago Manual of Style since I began proofreading for ad agencies. The online version offers non-subscribers a feature where you can type a query in the Search box located in the upper-right corner of the Table of Contents page. It then provides you with a list of results that you can quickly scan to find the relevant page in the printed book.

I discovered the Q&A page at The Chicago Manual of Style Online a long time ago and always delight in reading the questions and Carol Fisher Saller’s answers, which are often humorous and witty. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, The Subversive Copy Editor – Advice from Chicago.

I just noticed there is a second edition of her book. I’ll have to order it:

For the latest Q&A:

A website I frequently visit for grammar-related questions is I subscribed to their newsletter years ago and continue to find something interesting in most issues. Here's one from July describing the correct ways to use the word “so.” Such a small word, so many uses!

After reading the newsletter, I decided to download the e-Book version of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. It’s faster to use than a printed book and written in an easy-to-digest style.

I just received their year-end quiz. I definitely needed a refresher! I flew through the beginning but then had problems toward the end. Give it a try:

Sites of interest

While researching different proofreading sites to get ideas for my own, I came across Ward Nicholson’s well-designed website. A multi-talented person with many marketable skills, he had almost the same introduction to typesetting and proofreading as I did many years ago. I sent a message to say I was struck by how similar our paths had been and how much I admired his website. He was kind enough to respond and has been very helpful with providing me with information and encouragement. 

I loved reading his three-part blog about how he recently redesigned his website and the creative process behind it – fascinating. However, his latest blog made me shudder as I can’t stand loud noises either! Dear Ward, if you read this, I’m happy to report that I received a pair of very comfortable over-the-ear headphones for my birthday. Seven weeks of brickwork two doors down has been horrible. They took the scaffolding down yesterday and silence is golden as of today!

I came across this article on LinkedIn. Imagine checking a one-word ad and missing the mistake!

Items of interest

Click here to see an interesting article by the BBC about rules that we didn't know that we knew.