Editors Advise: Best Resources for Editors and Writers

In this series, Editors Toronto members and BoldFace contributors share their experiences, insights, and tips on the practical aspects of working as an editor or writer. The previous edition of “Editors Advise” included recommendations related to professional development. This time, six editors share their favourite resources on grammar and style. As it turns out, one of the most beloved books is “Dreyer’s English,” whose BoldFace review can be found here.

Collage of six book covers: "The Copyeditor's Handbook," "Dreyer's English," "Elements of Indigenous Style," "Writing Tools," "Woe Is I," and "Grammatically Correct."

What are your go-to grammar websites and books when you are editing?

Photo of Erin Della Mattia

Erin Della Mattia (she/her), writer and freelance editor

I don’t think I can overstate the importance of Editing Canadian English, 3rd edition. Although language usage and style expectations are always changing, this book is fairly thorough, making it a great resource to have on hand. I especially appreciate the chapters on hyphens and abbreviations—I’ve definitely reviewed those multiple times.

I also have copies of Maxine Ruvinsky’s Practical Grammar and Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook, 4th edition: the former provides a good overview, which is useful for both newer editors and experienced editors looking for simple ways to explain grammar to their clients, while the latter is probably essential for editors at any stage of their career or education.

Photo of Adrineh Der-Boghossian

Adrineh Der-Boghossian (she/her), project manager and freelance editor

To be honest, I refer most often to my notes from Practical Grammar and Punctuation, part of the publishing program at X University’s (formerly known as Ryerson University) The Chang School of Continuing Education. Editors can always use grammar refreshers, and I highly recommend this course (the instructor, Rebecca Vogan, was excellent!).

For books, I refer to those that were recommended in the course: Grammatically Correct, 2nd edition, by Anne Stilman; Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Conner; and The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark. I’m sure, however, that there are more recent books that would do just as well. One of the more enjoyable ones I read recently is Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer (and I’m sure I’m not the only one to name this book!).

Photo of Alex Marcoccia

Alex Marcoccia (he/him), editor-in-chief and freelance editor at Self Pub Hub

Some references I like to keep on hand:

Some other books on writing/editing I would recommend:

Photo of Berna Ozunal

Berna Ozunal (she/her), certified professional editor and editing instructor

I actually don’t have any grammar websites bookmarked, but I probably should. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is my go-to for a lot of things, but for most of the work I do now, I use AMA Manual of Style. I have a bunch of editing books by me—the usuals—The Canadian Press Stylebook, CMOS, APA Style, Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Garner’s Modern English Usage, Elements of Indigenous Style, and so on. I have others, like Dreyer’s English, The Elements of Style, books on typography and plain language…

Photo of Vilma Indra Vītols

Vilma Indra Vītols (she/her), freelance editor-in-training

Grammar websites I’d recommend:

Editors’ Association of Earth is a Facebook group where you can learn something every day. It’s generally a very supportive bunch of people, and it can be fun to try to help find a solution for a problematic sentence. The range of knowledge is wide, so it can be overwhelming when lots of people weigh in on a particular topic—I’ve come to recognize the editors whose knowledge and experience I trust. And I’ve come to realize that even experienced editors run up against problems they aren’t sure how to solve. It is at once humbling and encouraging. 

Books I use include The Canadian Press Stylebook, CMOS, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, Dreyer’s English (a highly entertaining introduction to the world of copy editing), Editing Canadian English, Oxford Guide to Plain English, and That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means (a fun little book about commonly confused words).

Photo of Michelle Waitzman

Michelle Waitzman (she/her), writer and copy editor

I don’t tend to look up grammar much, but I do some work editing French text. For that, I’ve found the Linguee website really helpful. The French translations I’m editing often include very specific usage (legal, financial, etc.), and my French knowledge may not extend to the context involved. The website lets you enter an entire phrase in English or French, then it pulls examples of how it has been translated from various bilingual online sources. You can look for something with a similar context and see whether the translation you have is appropriate.

This article was copy edited by Paul Neuviale.

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