Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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If you'd like to see older WWFC strips, please check the Will Write For Chocolate archives or start from the beginning. You can also follow WWFC on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Thanks so much for your continuing support! -- Debbie

Entries in online tools (2)


Useful online tools for freelance writers (Part 2)

Thanks to Rand again for this help with this week's strip (xocolatophobia) and to Joey Shoji for the gift of a special edition Valrhona 2005 Chocolat Noir De Domaine Gran Couva chocolate bar (see image below), inspired by the Will Write For Chocolate strip where Eliza offers Mimi chocolate comfort.

Thanks for the feedback about useful online tools for freelance writers, everyone! I've compiled some of the online resources suggested by Will Write For Chocolate readers below. You should also check out Sal Towse's great list of writing resource links.

From Sib:

Foreign exchange and currency info: Provides real-time currency rates, among other services.

Gran Couva
Not an online tool for writers but
inspirational, nonetheless.
See this strip.

Wikipedia: Online encyclopedia that is community-edited. Some of the info needs verifying, but it's often useful for a quick overview of a topic.

MLA: Founded in 1883 by teachers and scholars, the Modern Language Association promotes the study and teaching of language and literature. "Costs money, but it’s the database that lists articles published in journals in the last 40 years or so. Mostly humanities, but worth it if you are in that field and need to see who all has published on, say, Gender and Race in the works of Delany." "A service that makes electronic copies (for a fee) of articles you found in the MLA - it’s all German Universities listing all the journals they take, and they make you copies and email them within 2 days. Very handy."

English-German-English dictionary: "Sooo useful for non-native speakers writing most of their stuff in English. They also do lots of other stuff and the main page is at (LEO means 'Link Everything Online')."

From Lynda:

"Thanks for the links Debbie! I use Clicheé Finder to inspire me when I’m writing headlines. I also have found Factiva extremely useful for finding articles and new markets. It’s a bit expensive for private use, but you can use it at libraries. I also spend a lot of time at"

From Mari:'s collection of over three million answers is drawn from over 60 titles from brand-name publishers, as well as original content created by's own editorial team. "There’s an online dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, etc." "Useful for creating your own calendars for any date or year."

How Stuff Works: "From the people who brought us the children’s books first." This site is devoted to the origins of words and phrases, or as a linguist would put it, to etymology.

Infoplease: A world almanac. The site includes an atlas, encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, white pages, various almanacs.

The Writer's Medical and Forensics Lab: "This site is still new and growing, but still some useful stuff here." From the Web site: "This site is intended as a place where writers and readers can learn, be entertained, and obtain the specialized medical and forensic knowledge they need to make their stories come to life or to better understand someone else’s story."

Podunk: "Look up any state, any town in the US."

Do you know of other useful online resources for writers? Please do post them below.


Useful online tools for freelance writers (Part 1)

Thanks to my friend Rand Bellavia for his help with this week's strip. Rand knows more trivia than anyone else in the universe, so I knew he'd come up with something interesting when I asked him for an unusual hobby that Eliza could write about. There really IS such a thing as chess boxing, by the way...check out this article, especially the photo at the top.

Today's column focuses on online tools for freelance writers who work from home. One of the many blessings that the Internet has brought to freelance writers is the convenience of tools that save them time, money and desk space. This hit home recently when I was working in a coffee shop and was able to exchange several faxes with an interviewee for an article, e-mail my editor, look up a word in an online dictionary and do some research for another project...all in the space of the hour I spent in the coffee shop, with no physical paper or books; all I needed was a WiFi connection and my laptop.

Listed below are some of the online tools and services I've found invaluable in my freelance writing life. I'd be very interested in hearing about other online tools you've found useful; please do list them below and I'll post them in Part 2. For the next column, I'm more interested in tools of interest to freelance writers in general (which online dictionary do YOU use, for example?) rather than genre-specific research sites and tools. I'll save the latter for a future column.

The perfect home office

I was skeptical about this service at seemed too good to be true because of the huge storage limits. I wish the mail storage had hierarchical folders and a more sophisticated filtering system, but I've still found Gmail to be reliable. I use Gmail as my public e-mail address and have also found it useful when I need to receive large attachments.
An online service which allows you to send and receive faxes by e-mail. I switched from MaxEmail after a great deal of research because I found that MaxEmail could not send faxes to some 800 numbers. The user interface is poorly designed and takes some getting used to, but so far I've had no trouble with the service itself. I like the fact that I have my own 866 number, so clients and editors can send faxes to me for no charge. I also like the fact that I don't need to keep a physical fax machine, and can send and receive faxes from anywhere.

Canadian postal rates and U.S. postal rates:
Though I prefer electronic correspondence, there are still many freelance writing markets whose editors prefer surface mail queries and submissions.
Currency conversion. As a Canadian freelance writer who writes mainly for non-Canadian markets, I find this free online tool extremely useful.
Long distance phone service. This has greatly reduced our phone bills. How it works: You stick whatever amount of money into your account. Before you call a particular long distance number, you call your Goldline number first. The recorded voice tells you how much money is left in your account, and you dial your number. You can use this service from any phone, including pay phones (there is a small fee for a payphone call).

Office Depot (or Canadian Office Depot):
I confess I'm an office supply junkie and can spend waaaaay too much time browsing an office supply store. Now I can feed my addiction online! Plus it's nice having someone deliver my reams of printer paper instead of having to lug it home myself; in Canada, delivery is free if you spend at least $50.

Vistaprint (or Canadian Vistaprint):
If you're looking for relatively inexpensive business cards and other promotional materials, this is a great service. Be sure to sign up for their special deals and news mailing list to get the best'll get a lot of mail, BUT some of their short-term promotions are very good. I once ordered a set of 250 business cards for about $7 through one of their 24-hour promotions, and that included postage and handling. I was getting tired of the somewhat tacky-looking perforated edges on my own self-printed business cards.

Online organizer. I liked this system so much that I opted for the paid service. I use this for keeping notes on projects and reminder notes as well as hooking up some of my Backpack pages to Writeboards which enable me to collaborate on book and article projects with other people online.

Do you use any other useful online services or tools for freelance writers? Feel free to suggest them below and I'll post them in my next column.