Becoming an outstanding proofreader and editor takes work and training, but you knew that already. Reading books on proofreading and editing is a handy way to further refine your craft. Here are some great choices to add to your list of essential resources.
Grammar and Punctuation Guides
Grammar and punctuation guides look at how the English language works. They won’t always give definitive answers (style is subjective, after all). But looking at what other writers have to say about English will help you make smart choices for your clients.
In particular, for advice on grammar and punctuation, we recommend:
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer – In Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief for Random House Publishing, shares his witty insight into the English language. This includes the rules and non-rules of grammar, “confusables” (easily confused words), punctuation practices, and more.
The Best Punctuation Book, Period by June Casagrande – Based in American usage (but helpful to all), this book aims to help readers to “punctuate with confidence – no matter the style.” Covering several major styles, this book will help you make informed editing choices and look up general punctuation rules.
Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – Swan’s book is especially useful for those working on materials for with non-native English speakers. It explains grammar, punctuation, and other aspects of English usage in clear, simple terms.
The Craft of Editing and Proofreading
So much goes into editing and proofreading beyond knowing the ins and outs of language. These books, for example, also cover everything from client relations to marketing:
The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz – The Copyeditor’s Handbook is filled with information on editing ethics and best practices, using technology in editing, and more. There is also a helpful workbook and handbook set for a more intensive learning experience. And while it mainly focuses on American English, its advice on modern editing techniques will be useful for anyone.
The Subversive Copyeditor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller – The full title of this gem may be a mouthful, but The Subversive Copyeditor is an extremely handy guide to the practical side of copyediting. It offers guidance on working with writers, workflow management, and other challenges faced by freelance editors.
Butcher’s Copy-Editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-Editors and Proofreaders by Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake and Maureen Leach – Butcher’s famous book is known as the “copy editor’s bible” in the UK. And while the fourth (and most recent) edition came out in 2006, it’s still an informative resource.
Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies by Suzanne Gilad – This book is a useful reference point for basic proofreading and editing practices. It also contains helpful information on the business side of proofreading and editing.
Just for Fun
We encourage our course graduates to be curious about the English language. Thus, as well as reference books, it’s worth reading books that feed this curiosity, such as:
The Prodigal Tongue: The Love–Hate Relationship between British and American English by Lynne Murphy – In The Prodigal Tongue, dual American–British citizen Murphy examines the subtle, unending competition for superiority between the American and British dialects, as well as how the language has evolved through this struggle.
Playing with Words: Humour in the English Language by Barry J. Blake – This little-known book delves into how we use the English language to make people laugh. Playing with Words takes the very things that drive proofreaders and editors insane and shows how these misuses of language are often at the core of humor and wit.
Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language by Richard Lederer – Anyone working in the world of editing and proofreading will appreciate the hilarious examples of misused language in Anguished English.
No Books Necessary!
To master proofreading, though, you can’t beat professional training. Take our online course, Becoming A Proofreader, to learn all the skills you need to start a new freelance career.