My Favorite Language Resources

by Erin Brenner on December 17, 2010

Whether you’re still shopping for gifts or trying to decide how to spend the gift certificate you found in your stocking, these resources for writers and editors are wonderful choices. And if you purchase from Amazon using the links here, you’ll be helping support this blog. Thanks!

OK, I admit this is partially a hint to those buying me gifts, but the Kindle can be a really useful tool for writers and editors. What better way to have all of your resources at your fingertips? Whether you work solely at a desk or you work wherever the mood takes you, you can check your dictionaries, style guides, writing books, grammar books … you get the idea. Even if your favorite resource isn’t an ebook yet (you’d be surprised how many of them are), if that resource is available on a website, this Kindle will hook you up with its free WiFi. How can you lose? (Hint hint, family.)

  • A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H. W. Fowler. Prescriptivists out there would do well to consult Fowler regularly. He knew how he wanted language to work and offers detailed essays to back up his well-educated opinions. I reviewed Fowler’s classic work in a previous post, if you want to know more.
  • The Grammar Devotional by Mignon Fogarty. This small book packs a lot into it. Go through it day by day or in large chunks to up your grammar game. Read this post for an in-depth review.
  • Garner’s Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Gardner. If Fowler’s prescriptivism isn’t to your taste, check out this mighty work. Garner offers practical, defendable advice that looks at how language is currently being used. He even offers a Language Change Index to help you decide whether to go along with a new trend. If you’re a regular reader, you know how often I refer to this book.
  • Word Court by Barbara Wallraff. Here’s a book that I have neglected on this blog and that I will have to correct in the coming year. The book is drawn from Wallraff’s column of the same name that once ran in The Atlantic Monthly. I was first introduced to Wallraff through Copyediting.com, when she was the editor. Her advice was sound then and the advice in the book remains so.
  • Words into Type based on studies by Marjorie E. Skillin, Robert M. Gay, and other authorities. This classic work hasn’t been updated since 1974, but don’t let that stop you. Its sections on grammar and word use alone are worth the cost of the book.
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn. If your favorite copyeditor doesn’t own this book, buy it for her. This is the book for understanding how to copyedit and is used in countless copyediting courses (including my own). If your writing could use a little grammar boost, buy a copy for yourself as well.
  • The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing (Essential Resource Library) by Thomas S. Kane. This is a recent find (and another required text for my editing class), and I just love it. Kane covers the writing process, paragraphs, sentences, words, punctuation, and more. The chapters are short, there are writing practices throughout to help you learn the material, and the advice is solid. You could do a lot worse than making this your writing bible.

Looking for more? Check out the Language Resources page.

This is the last post for 2010. I’ll be back in January with more quick lessons, useful information, and reviews of helpful resources to guide your writing life. If you want something in particular covered, let me know in the comments below or e-mail me. Until then, happy holidays!

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