Melanie Spiller & Coloratura Consulting
A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
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Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.
Useful Resource Books

A reader asked me what editing reference books I have handy on my shelf. I was surprised to see just how many there were, and how few I actually use. So I polled a few editor friends and some of my favorite authors to see if I could come up with some good recommendations.

 

Several authors said that they have no non-technical books on the shelf, that they have only a dictionary and a Chicago Manual, or that they rely solely on me and my ilk and Word’s built-in tools. Editors had, for the most part, a list like mine; lots of books, but only a few used regularly.

 

In truth, I use my Webster’s Dictionary, Bernstein’s The Careful Reader, and the Chicago Manual quite regularly. I occasionally use Microsoft’s Computer Dictionary, but more often look up technical terms on the Internet. I also have need for a really big Langenscheidt English-German Dictionary (it’s a big one, Mike P., not a travel version—it’s bigger than my Webster).

 

Here’s my list. I confess that many of these books got “promoted” to be near the computer when I started writing a blog about writing.

 

These books are by my computer (in order of frequency of use):

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Here's my selection of less frequently used books (kept in the other room, in no particular order):

 

I have a wild assortment of "joke" books, like the Richard Lederer series (Anguished English, and the Bride of Anguished English, etc.) and the history of English that were gifts, and a selection of books on writing fiction, more on editing, and a few research books, like collections of 20th Century Culture, a guide to literature, a reader's encyclopedia, and so forth. I also have some oddball dictionaries, like for crossword puzzles and rhyming. For the most part, I use the Internet (including MSDN) and the research books to check facts, and don't really look at the others unless I'm strolling through and something catches my eye (perhaps to avoid a difficult edit).

 

These are direct quotes from what some of my authors said in response to the “what’s on your bookshelf” question:

Here’s the list from my editing friends:

 

It’s obvious that editors spend more time and money on research books than do authors. I guess that’s not too surprising.

 

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