Tag Archives: how to

4 Essentials to Look For in a Writing Handbook

Attention college students: as you get settled into your new fall classes and start shopping for the best textbook prices, here are a few things to look for in a writing handbook that will help with your term papers and essay assignments.

Once you get past the introductory writing courses like English 101, your professors are going to expect competent, college-level writing in your assigned essays without giving you a lot of steps and support. Hopefully you learned all of the basics from English 101, and even if you did, an excellent writing handbook can provide a lot of quick support and resources at your fingertips.

All college writing handbooks will give you the basics about starting your essay (brainstorming, mapping, outlining, and drafting), and all handbooks will give you the grammar basics (how to make sure your sentence isn’t a fragment and how to tell if your sentence has a comma splice), but here are a few things to look for in a writing handbook that offer extra support to make your writing shine during college (and maybe beyond college too).

Have you selected a college writing handbook yet? Image credit: Unhindered by Talent, flickr.com

#1 – Sentence Style

In the beginning of your undergraduate days, you will probably be most concerned with creating error-free sentences. However, as you go deeper into your degree field and start taking upper-level courses, correctness is no longer enough; you want to have style. Learning the intricacies of subordination is essential for advanced college-level writing, especially if you want to go on to graduate school. It takes a lot of practice. For example, do you know how to use parallelism in order to convey the multi-part meaning of a complex idea, capture your audience’s attention through stylistic devices, and display a sophisticated level of critical thinking with your grammar? Make sure your handbook has an entire section on sentence style that gives plenty of ideas and instructions for a variety of sentences.

#2 – MLA/APA Updates

Your professors will expect you to use MLA or APA format (or maybe something else) to document your sources. Make sure your writing handbook has the latest updates. For example, MLA format has now been updated so students no longer need to include cumbersome urls in their citations. As far as I can tell, most of the updates for documenting electronic and online sources are very helpful for students, so it’s better to make sure you’re using the new format.

#3 – Glossary of Style and Usage

There are a lot of things in college writing that your spellchecker will not pick up. For example, do you know whether or not to use “toward” or “towards”? “Further” or “farther”? “Hanged” or “hung”? Do you know the differences between “lay,” “lie,” and “laid”? Should you capitalize seasons? A good glossary of usage will provide easy answers to all of these things and a lot more. If you think your professors don’t notice stuff like this, you’re wrong. They notice, and it doesn’t take very many little usage errors to add up and make an overall bad impression.


Use a writing handbook to easily develop a spiffy resume. Image credit: The CV Inn, flickr.com

#4 – Resumes and Cover Letters

During college and after, you’re going to need to make awesome resumes and cover letters for job hunting. All of the lessons of effective college writing come into play with these documents that can make or break your job search: how to write for a specific audience (your prospective employer), how to craft concise and impactful sentences, how to persuade, how to use powerful verbs for dynamic style. Making a perfect resume and cover letter is an art form–it takes style. In addition to these features, there are very specific conventions regarding format and presentation for resumes and cover letters. Too many people stop at correct format without making their sentences powerful. You want your writing handbook to give you all of this information within easy reach. Spend at least as much time editing and revising your resume as you would a college term paper that is ten times as long.

Some of you out there might be thinking, why should I bother paying for a writing handbook when all of this information is available online? It’s true that you can find most of this information online, but you have to find it first. As a working writer myself, I can tell you it is much more time consuming to go searching for a usage question online (and sort through all the results that pop up) than it is to flip open my handbook, which is always sitting on my desk.

Do you have any questions about finding a writing handbook? Or do you have any other questions that you always wanted to ask your professors but were afraid to ask? Leave your questions in the comments section and I can give you all of the inside information.

DIY: How to Self Publish Your Books

Stephen King faced over two dozen rejections before he was able to sell his first novel, Carrie, to a publisher. Frank Herbert faced the same problem with Dune. But those were the ancient days of the 20th century when using publishers was the easiest way to get you book in readers hands. There was self-publishing–Beatrice Potter self-published 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit—however, true success would only come through major publishing companies. Thankfully, self-publishing in the 21st century is a little different.

Today, self publishing is ridiculously easy. Through the use of Print-on-Demand (POD) websites like Lulu.com and Createspace.com, anyone can self publish a book. The process is not limited to novels; you can use Blurb.com to create photography or picture books. If your interest is less stiff book and more floppy pamphlet, use Magcloud to create your own magazine.

The greatest feature that POD offers is affordability. These companies don’t charge money to upload or store the book’s files, they only ask from money when they print a book. The neat thing about that is that it’s possible to print one book at a time. This means a writer doesn’t have to print 1000 books at a time and store them until they’re sold. Each copy is printed when it’s bought.

And these services aren’t just for amateurs; established writers are also using them. Guys like Warren Ellis, Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton (yeah, the guy from Stand by Me and Star Trek: TNG) are dipping their toes into the POD pool to see what all the fuss is about.

These technological innovations make the gap between author and reader smaller and smaller. Keep in mind that it’s still a relatively new service, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out. And just selling a book on the sites won’t make you an overnight phenomenon. But if you just want a copy of your novel to go on your bookshelf, this is a great thing.

Grubbin’ the Green Way: How to Dine Sustainably

If you are like me, you like to eat out…A LOT! More and more, I am seeing restaurants advertising local, sustainable food sources, and energy-saving practices on their menus. This got me thinking….how do you dine sustainably?

Below are just a few steps to pique your interest in eating environmentally.

1. An important first step in eating out responsibly is choosing a green restaurant.

The Green Restaurant Association is a great start! Through their website, you can locate local eateries that meet green certification standards. Over 300 restaurants in 30 states have met minimum standards in the following areas:

  • Water Efficiency
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling
  • Sustainable Furnishings and Building Materials
  • Sustainable Food
  • Energy
  • Disposables
  • Chemical and Pollution Reduction

In addition to sustainable restaurants, several guides exist to help you navigate your way to vegetarian, organic, and local dinner sources.

Happy Cow Compassionate Eating Guide

Local Harvest


2. Remember to eat local.

Try to support restaurants that rely on local farmers, farmers’ markets, and food co-ops to stock their pantries.

3. Be sure to order with a conscience.

Consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide before ordering seafood. The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides “best choices,” “good alternatives,” and those fish to “avoid” in order to help sustain wild, diverse, and healthy ocean ecosystems for the future.

EarthEasy also has a sustainable seafood list by type.

4. Make responsible water choices.

Only ask for a glass of water if you’ll actually drink it. If the meal is coming to an end, decline last minute fill-ups if you won’t be staying to finish them off.

5. When eating on the go…

Refuse extras like condiments or plastic utensils if taking your food home.  Or, if you know how much ketchup or napkins you’ll need, be specific and request just one or two. Be sure to reuse the bags and cups you get as many times as you can afterward.

6. Doggie Bag?

If you are really hard-core, bring your own reusable container for leftovers. Make doggie bags a thing of the past!

Just a side note – Throughout my childhood, when visiting the buffet, my grandma would hide plastic bags in her purse to bring home “leftovers.” Some may say she was ahead of her time sustainably. But the reality is that she was frugal. 🙂  I would politely remind her…although it doesn’t explicitly say, “All you can eat HERE,” it should be implied.

Top Posts on the Green Frugal 2010

The first year of blogging on the Green Frugal has come and gone. All of us here at Cash4Books would like to thank all of our readers. We hope you have learned as much and had as much fun as we have.

In case you might have missed them, included below are our top five posts in 2010.

Here’s to 2011!

DIY Bookshelves for under $20

We love books and we love saving money. This post was a perfect combination of these two things.


How to create a romantic dinner date at home

Cash4Books president, Jim Smith, explains how he surprised his wife on their anniversary with a very special dinner date at home.


DIY How to frame autumn leaves

Beautiful and vibrant colors come to homes and neighborhoods every autumn. Finding a few leaves and preserving them, makes great gifts and adds a little spice to any room.


Fundraising with Cash4Books

No one doubts that Cash4Books can be a great way to raise money. A customer had asked us how that power can be harnessed to raise funds for great causes.


DIY Secret compartment in a book

Our very own Michael B explains how he created a super secret hiding place inside of an old textbook.


How To Save Hundreds of Dollars on your Holiday Shopping

Holidays can be a stressful time for people. How and when are you going to get all your shopping done?! The key to surviving the crazy holiday shopping rush is to plan ahead, and you can walk away with hundreds of dollars in savings.

As everyone knows, this year Friday the 26th after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday” where brick and mortar retailers experience stampeding customers, 4 a.m. openings, and mad sprints to the electronics department, not to mention a massive increase in sales. With the economic downturn over the past few years, big box stores have gotten more aggressive with their offers, which means big savings for you.  But that’s not your only day to save.  The following Monday, termed “Cyber Monday” (November 29th this year) is when online retailers post their version of door-buster deals.

How do you find out about all of these great savings? Besides getting on the big box retailer mailing lists, you can subscribe to their email lists as well.  But to get a more comprehensive view (and not get inundated by junkmail and spam) I would suggest going to one of many websites dedicated to consolidating the many retailers’ deals into one location.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals can tend to be electronics focused when looking at Target, Walmart, or other big box retailers.  If you have a favorite store in mind and can’t find their deal, just ask them! Below are just a few examples of websites found when doing a quick search for “Black Friday deals”:

Cyber Monday is the other huge holiday (online) shopping day where you can find ridiculous deals.  If you are looking for mid-priced electronics especially computer accessories, digital cameras, and video games then pay attention to the Cyber Monday deals.  Often, free shipping is part of the online retailer’s offer.  In order to really “win” with any of these deals, it’s important to pay attention to any fine print details.  As with the Black Friday websites, these are websites entirely dedicated to posting these deals.  Here are just a few found when doing a simple search for “Cyber Monday deals”:

Outside of these two big days there are literally hundreds of websites you can utilize to save serious cash.  Popular ones include coupon websites where coupons are posted by consumers as well as businesses.  Some of the more popular ones include:

Two of the rising stars in the online discount world that have given it a unique twist are two of my favorites –Groupon.com & LivingSocial.com.  You can sign up for huge deals offered by local businesses. These deals are always substantial discounts, with 50% off the product or service being the norm.

As you navigate the madhouse that is holiday shopping, try to shop consciously by keeping an eye on what’s green, sustainable, local, and still affordable.  Remember that shopping local supports your local community.

(Note:  Websites mentioned here are not endorsed by McKenzie Books Inc. and are only provided for informational use only. There is no benefit to McKenzie Books Inc. for mentioning or linking to these websites.)