It doesn’t take long for a writer’s desk to morph into some sort of untamed beast, overflowing with drafts, letters, writing utensils, unpaid bills, and probably even half a pizza under there somewhere. With all this junk assuming so much space, it leaves precious little room for some of a freelance Web copywriter’s best assets—books! Of course, most writers are readers first, and the wrong kind of books will do little more than distract you, so the best copywriters only keep a handful of helpful books on their desks. Narrowing down all the possible books to just five may, at first, seem like an impossible task, but the more you think about it the easier it becomes to see exactly what types of books you need as a professional freelance writer.
AP Style Guide
Novelists have the luxury of creating their own style rules when it comes to writing (here’s to you, Mr. McCarthy), but professional freelancers certainly do not. The AP style is one of the primary styles used for Web content, and most outlets will require that you be proficient in it. Of course, it’s impossible for all but the most studious to have every nook and cranny of the style memorized, so having the AP Style Guide at your fingertips can ensure that you avoid embarrassment and rewrite requests. Remember that the style gets updated each year to reflect changes in how we use the English language, so you’ll want to purchase the latest guide each summer when the new one comes out.
The editing process is one of the hardest parts about professional writing. No one likes to have their work picked apart, altered or rejected outright, but the best copywriters refuse to go blind into the editing process. A copyeditor’s handbook will give you valuable insight into how a copyeditor looks at an article. The book not only contains information and examples, but will also often include quizzes or practice articles so you can beef up your basic writing knowledge whenever you have a spare moment. Even the best copywriters will proofread everything they do before submission, and this handbook will ensure you are looking for everything a copyeditor will.
Sometimes, the right words just come naturally, but intermittently, the veridical locution can be too operose to determinate. For those times when your language could benefit from a little flourish, a thesaurus is an invaluable asset. Often, you don’t even realize how helpful a thesaurus can be. When you are stuck on a certain sentence, and no matter how much you fiddle with it, the sentence never sounds right, a quick flip through the thesaurus could find the key that solves your problem. Of course, be careful not to overdo it. As displayed in the opening sentence, too many obscure words in sequence just sounds like gibberish.
With all the fancy new words you find in your thesaurus, you’ll want to make sure you are using them correctly. A dictionary will ensure that your chosen word actually means what you think it does, and can be helpful in pinpointing words that you may not be completely sure about. A dictionary is also invaluable for spelling obscure words that may not be present in your word processor’s spell check function. In their downtime, the best copywriters will take a brief glance through the dictionary for words they don’t know to build a better vocabulary.
Your Favorite Book
Let’s face facts, very few professional freelance Web copywriters first took pen to paper (or keys to keyboard for you youngins) in the hopes of someday cranking out thousands of articles based on a client’s specifications, but that’s the life we lead. Still, there can be beauty in even the driest of articles as long as you can remember the magic that drew you to writing in the first place. When the daily grind starts getting you down, nothing can get the creative juices flowing again like reading a few pages from your favorite book. Whatever language and style make this book stand out in your mind are sure to get you going again.
Shawn D is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments. WriterAccess is powered by ideaLaunch.