Reference Tools For A Home Office

No home office is truly complete with a bevy of reference works that can help you find information to complete a challenging project.

As you put the finishing touches on a well thought out proposal while working in your home office, you suddenly realize that a word you've used doesn't sound quite right. Thinking hard, you come up with another term. It doesn't really fit, either. Now what?

If you're equipped your office with a good selection of reference works, the answer you're looking for may be at your fingertips. In this case, opening a thesaurus and looking up the word you want to change may lead to a list of similar terms from which you can choose.

Here are some guidelines for stocking a few helpful resources:

1. A thesaurus. As mentioned above, a thesaurus provides optional words for a term you may not be satisfied with. The right word can make the right impression, and vice versa. So if you're working on an important document and need to select the most appropriate word choice, open your thesaurus and run through the selections listed to find the best possible way of saying something in your writing. Also listed is a word's antonym, or opposite, to help clarify what it doesn't mean as well as what it does.

2. A dictionary. Everyone has used a dictionary at some point. Most of us look up the meaning or spelling of a word we're not sure of. But did you know you can also find a word's original meaning, its evolution, and its origins? Furthermore, some dictionaries offer uncommon language usage items, such as which numbers should be spelled out and which ones should be left as numerals in a document. You may be able to find the correct terms of address for government leaders or a chart of major world holidays. Browse your dictionary or pick up a good one to find out what you've been missing.

3. A style guide. If you do much research or publishing, chances are you need to know at least one style guide, or maybe more. A style guide explains the writing conventions for a certain type of publication. The Modern Language Association, for example, has its own way of suggesting that research papers use documentation. The Chicago Manual of Style prefers a slightly different method, while the American Psychological Association does things a bit differently from either of the two just mentioned. All told, there are about twelve or more style guides that help shape the way that writing is published for others to read. If you work within a certain industry or do a certain type of writing, find out which conventions should be followed and pick up a study guide for easy reference.

4. A grammar guide. All of us occasionally forget how to use correct grammar. From verb endings to pronoun agreement, a helpful grammar book can provide easy to find tips for using English correctly. Some guides include rules, definitions, explanations, examples, and exercises, along with exceptions. Browse a book store or shop online for a quality grammar text.

5. An encyclopedia. If you work on a lot of the same thing at home, consider adding an encyclopedia or similar reference tool to your library. For example, The Idiot's Guide to Car Maintenance might be helpful if you write articles for an automotive publication. Or a medical writer might be interested in a physiological encyclopedia. Sometimes you can get a single volume of consolidated information. Or you can get a set of volumes at a second-hand price.

Investing in a few books like these can make a major difference in the quality of writing you turn out from your home office. You also can visit hundreds of Web sites on the Internet and bookmark those that prove most useful.

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