Links to Writing, Editing, and Rights Tools

From Observatory

Editorial Toolkit

If your question is not answered by the Observatory’s Style Guide for Writers, you can check the following online resources.

Bookmarking the sites below so they are handy as you write and revise is recommended.

Associated Press (AP Style)

If you don’t have AP Stylebook access, a great free alternative is Writing Explained’s AP Stylebook section.

Chicago Manual of Style

If you don’t have access to the 17th edition (print book or online) of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), search online for your query and add “Chicago Manual of Style”; see also the blog AP vs. Chicago.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

The best resource (after our style guide) on questions of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.


A great tool: this spellcheck browser extension works across most websites—including Google Docs to check your article as you go! Make sure it’s turned on (there’s a little red or green dot at the bottom-right of any editable text space; if it’s gray, click it and turn it on).

Note: the Grammarly extension is not compatible with the MediaWiki VisualEditor used in some contexts of text editing on the Observatory. You can either use the built-in wiki spellcheck for the text edit fields in Visual or Source Editor, or copy-paste from the Observatory wiki in “Edit” mode into Grammarly’s website or a local file and use the Grammarly extension or your preferred spellcheck software, and then apply your changes to the Observatory wiki page.

Grammarly is enabled on the Observatory only when editing source code in a form (such as on an article page, author page, source page, or guide). On the page you wish to spellcheck, click “Edit with form” in the top navigation bar, and inside the form, click the brackets icon [[]] at the bottom right of the text edit field for the article body or other field you wish to spellcheck to toggle into source code editing mode (it does not work in visual editing mode within the form). The Grammarly web extension is also not compatible when using regular “Edit” mode from the top navigation bar (without starting from “Edit with form”). You may wish to use any spellchecking tool that automatically appears within your browser in the wiki, or to copy all of the body text from the wikitext editor of your choice (visual or source, form or not) into a word processing tool you prefer (Google Docs + Grammarly, or Microsoft Word + its native spellchecking tool, or directly into Grammarly online via https://app.grammarly.com or https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check).

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips

Helpful for solving grammar questions.

Anne Curzan’s Grammar and Usage Book, With a Grain of Salt: Says Who?

See Anne Curzan’s blog Lingua Franca, her article there on overcoming overly proscriptive “Grammando” tendencies with curiosity, her essay “Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar,” and (best of all—we recommend getting a copy from a bookstore or local library if possible) Curzan’s book Says Who? A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares About Words.

Note: You may end up challenging your editor by relying on Curzan’s guidance, but it is helpful to know how language is changing and when it’s okay to break rules we may have been taught by our English teachers or parents.

Journalistic Resources for Fact-Checking and for Formatting Links and Capitalizing Headlines and Section Headings


For light fact-checking (checking similar U.S. web publications including the New York Times) or other grammar questions.


Plug your headline or section headline or email subject line in, and then click the top AP radio button for AP style. Voila, the text bar has now properly formatted your text into headline capitalization, so copy and paste it wherever you need it to go.


If headlincapitalization.com is down, try this. It’s the same as the above, with an AP tab instead of a radio button.

TinyURL or Bitly (to Convert From http to https)

If you want to insert a URL as a link in your article but it begins http (without the s in https), it is not secure and might not be functional for all users, especially when copy-pasted into other places.

Plug the http URL into one of these, and the short link should have https instead of http at the beginning, so you can fool content management systems into not loading error pages when you use these links. Make sure to test that it goes where you want it to after you put it in your article.

Fair Use, Public Domain, and Copyright Resources

To determine if you are following fair use guidelines when quoting heavily from any cited source(s), consider factors such as word counts and the percentage of the original piece being quoted, etc. See resources about fair use, public domain, and copyright from:

The U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

This explains the law concretely but can be confusing. We strongly encourage you to further your understanding by looking at the more approachable resources below.

The American Library Association (ALA)

ALA’s Fair Use Basics and Cases pdf
This is an especially helpful resource, with case examples and plain-language explanations of each of the four factors determining fair use. It also explains public domain: “The one sure way to determine whether a work can be used under fair use guidelines is to determine whether the copyright on the work has expired. This is referred to as passing into the public domain.”
Fair Use Evaluator
This is highly recommended if you are at all unsure about if you are violating or following fair use guidelines.
Public Domain Slider
This is a basic, helpful tool to figure out dates, but not everything old is in the public domain, so read the fine print on the results.
More in ALA’s Copyright Tools: Advocacy, Legislation, and Issues

This reference guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Reprinting with attribution to the authors for ​​noncommercial use is allowed under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license guidelines, excluding third-party content.

For inquiries regarding content reuse, reprint rights, and licensing, visit the Observatory’s Reuse and Reprint Rights Guidance page.

Last Updated: April 4, 2024

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