Can I Trust That Writing Website?

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Q: Is there a way to verify the legitimacy of Internet-based sites that offer writing classes? How can I check on their standing in the business community?—Cynthia Cheng

A: Ah, the Internet—where anyone can be an authority on anything. You’re right in wanting to protect yourself, and one easy step is to contact Writer Beware or Preditors & Editors and ask if any complaints have come in about a particular site. Victoria Strauss, a founding member of SFWA’s Writer Beware, also suggests asking the Web site in question for references.

“Whoever’s running the courses should be willing to provide a few e-mail addresses” of others who’ve taken the course, says Strauss. “If this request is refused, caution is in order.”

Other things to look for on the Web site include full disclosure of the writing teachers and their backgrounds, class topics and fees. Strauss says questionable operations will often omit much of this information. Just the same, if you do use a program that turns out to be a scam, contact both Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors and let them know.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Friday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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