With yet another book arriving in the mailbox this week, I was thinking … What are your indispensable “go-to” books for your craft? There are certain books I always have open bookmarked to certain pages, or they fall open to the proper page since I have opened them enough that the binding is broken to that spot. [It makes me sad, as a bibliophile, when that happens … but, that’s a different blog post ♥].
The latest addition to the bookshelf for me is that little book on the top of the stack, Sarah Harrison Smith’s The Fact Checker’s Bible — A Guide to Getting it Right.
Now you are wondering, why these books? Why are they my essentials? Here is why.
Einsohn’s book is a perfect companion to The Chicago Manual of Style, for me. It emphasizes the practical, how-to be a real-life copyeditor: punctuation, grammar issues, reference books, and on-screen editing; it is 550 pages of valuable knowledge. It gives you exercises to keep your editor’s red pen sharp. My copy is highlighted and marked up on various segments that I keep going back to on a regular basis.
…[A] copyeditor must read the document letter by letter, word by word, with excruciating care and attentiveness. In many ways, being a copyeditor is like sitting for an English exam that never ends: At any moment, your knowledge of spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, syntax, and diction is being tested.
The Associated Press Stylebook 2015
Required for journalism students and essential in print journalism (except for The New York Times which has its own stylebook in place), AP Stylebook provides consistent guidelines for content continuity from many writers, editors, and publishers working together. Grammar, punctuation, and language usage are all covered, including consistency, clarity, accuracy and brevity.
AP Stylebook also has an online version, which is peppered with topical guides such as the 2016 Election Guide: Political Titles, Terminology, Institutions and Key Events.
Do you ever find yourself using the same phrase over and over again to describe what your character is feeling? This book by Angela Ackerman will help you find physical, internal and mental cues for all the emotions you might need in your writing. It also helps me find the right word or phrase to help vary your manuscript and make a stronger statement, to connect with your reader.
For example, Impatience.
- Clicking one’s fingernails against a table
- Narrowing eyes, a look of intense focus that can be mistaken for anger
- A sharp tone, using as few words as possible to answer
- Attention that snaps toward small sounds or movement
- Complaining to others or mumbling under one’s breath: “Where is he?” or “What is taking so long?”
- Fussing with one’s appearance (brushing lint from a sleeve, applying lip gloss)
- Feeling exhausted or strained to the limits
The Fact Checker’s Bible — A Guide to Getting It Right
Sarah Harrison Smith
This is my latest acquisition for the bookshelf. Smith used to be a fact-checker for the New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, and is now teaching at John Hopkins University. This is an essential guide to the neglected task of checking facts, no matter what the source. In this day and age of information overload, we need to be able to determine the reliability of what we read. In the back is a helpful list of resources in subjects ranging from wine to films.
Garner’s Modern American Usage
Brian A. Garner
David Foster Wallace said in his essay Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage, “Garner’s dictionary is extremely good…its format… includes entries on individual words and phrases and expostulative small-cap MINI-ESSAYS.But the really distinctive and ingenious features of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage involve issues of rhetoric and ideology and style.”
For my editing purposes, it covers usage, pronunciation, and style: troublesome words and phrases— imply vs. infer; word entries that clarify two terms (site, sight); the 9-page Punctuation, from Apostrophe to Virgule — my favorite section, Punctuation; Sesquipedality (the use of big words); and the “Language Change Index“— which measures “how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become.”
The Chicago Manual of Style — The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers
16th Edition (2010)
University of Chicago
If you are a writer or an editor, you need this book. Either the physical copy, or subscribe to their online service. [Or do both, like I do!]. CMOS online has answered so many questions about rules. Yes, rules. They exist,and CMOS is a wonderful source for learning new rules.
It keeps up-to-date on the latest advances. The sixteenth edition includes publishing electronic publications, web-based content and e-books. I can’t live without their Hyphenation Table, and the updated Unicode numbers for special characters.
Now it’s your turn : What’s on YOUR bookshelf?
1.Wallace, David Foster (April 2001). “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage”. Harper’s Magazine. Harper’s Magazine Foundation. http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html