I was first published in the early 1970s and as much as technology has changed the writing/publishing industry, there are some things that remain constant–like having access to desk reference books such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar book.
Why do you need books when you can access just about anything you want on the Internet? Convenience comes to mind. I’ve tried looking things up both ways–online and on desk–and reaching for a book while keeping your writing going on the screen can be much quicker.
Everyone knows you need a dictionary to find out how to spell a word, but it does much more than that for you. By reading the word’s meaning, you can determine if the word you need is capital or capitol, complimentary or complementary, stationary or stationery, etc.
All good writers look for ways to express themselves without being trite or overusing favorite words. Here’s where your thesaurus can help. I like my desk copy for quick reference, but the electronic versions are equally helpful.
Good writing requires good grammar. I’m amazed at how many authors approach Expert Publishing and they obviously haven’t taken any time to show they understand grammar or punctuation. I don’t understand how people can think they’re writers, yet they don’t know how to work with their primary tools of words and punctuation–the two things that make writing clear and understandable. If your grammar is rusty, get a grammar reference book, get familiar with grammar basics, and keep it handy for reference.
While I agree that looking things up online works well, I also encourage you to keep hard copy reference books close to where you write. Sometimes they’re a better, quicker choice and you get back to your writing, which is what you really want to do anyway!