There are certain reference books that I turn to time and again while editing and proofreading. Find out my top recommended books for editors.
Whether you’re just starting out as an editor or proofreader, or are a seasoned pro, there are certain reference books that you’ll need on your shelves (or the equivalent digital version). Take a peek at my bookshelves and discover my top picks.
(If you’re a writer, head over to my post on best books for writers)
Advice and guidance
Copyediting & Proofreading for Dummies
This was one of the first books I bought about editing and proofreading. It’s easy to follow (doh, it’s for dummies!) and the affordable price makes it a great first book if you’re starting out, or aren’t yet sure if editing and proofreading are for you.
It goes over the different types of editing and explains how editing differs from proofreading. There is plenty of advice on dealing with clients and organising your workflow, as well as explanations of some of the need-to-know grammar rules for our line of work.
Published in the US, most of the advice is aimed at American editors and amounts are in dollars, but editors on both sides of the pond will find much value in its pages.
The Pocket Book of Proofreading
There are lots of reasons to love this book by William Critchley, not least because the cover features a teddy bear named Archie. Published in the UK, this pocket guide is another great starting point for fledging editors and proofreaders.
It’s on my list of favourites thanks to its compact size and well-laid-out interior. It runs through skills and tools of the trade, some style, punctuation and spelling issues you may come across, working with figures and tables and much more. I’m always dipping into it, even as an experienced editor.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
This tome needs no introduction. Companion dictionary to The Chicago Manual of Style, it will lend your bookshelf a sense of finesse and gravitas (who said those two things were mutually exclusive?)
This is a necessary dictionary for editors working on US-English text, and if you buy the paper version (which I always prefer, being a traditional bookworm), you also get a year’s subscription to the online version.
New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors
Companion to New Hart’s Rules – The Oxford Style Guide (listed below), this is a comprehensive listing of words and terms that editors often need to look up.
It includes proper nouns, foreign and specialist terms, alternative and American forms, book titles and fictional characters. It’s also really handy for those pesky hyphens and capital letters.
I like to browse through it over a cup of coffee, just for pleasure (I think I’m in the right job!)
New Hart’s Rules – The Oxford Style Guide
An essential style guide for any UK-English editor or proofreader’s shelf, New Hart’s Rules is the official book of the Oxford style.
I love this book, not only because it’s an indispensable guide to British English. The affordable hardback, measuring just 18 cm x 20 cm, looks fantastic on my shelf alongside its companion volume mentioned in this article, the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors.
The Economist Style Guide
This style was developed by John Grimond, who joined the magazine-format newspaper The Economist in 1969. It is popular in the UK and its emphasis is on using plain English.
If you have clients who use this style, you’ll need this guide. Not only does it cover a broad range of language topics, there is also a useful section on the differences between British and American English.
The Chicago Manual of Style
Known as CMOS to its friends, The Chicago Manual of Style is the definitive style for fiction authors in the US and elsewhere.
Whether you are a US editor, or a UK editor working on text written in American English, this is an indispensable book to have to hand.
The Associated Press Stylebook
Full disclosure: I don’t yet have this on my shelf but it’s next on my purchase list. I’m always googling the finer points of the AP style. It would be far easier (and nicer!) to have the paper copy to refer to.
The AP style is mostly used in journalism, business writing and online content.
Over to you
Now that you’ve had a sneaky peek at my bookshelves, it’s your turn to share.
What are your go-to editing guides? Let me know your recommended books for editors in the comments!
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