What are the best books on editing?
May 9, 2009 12:22 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend your favourite books on editing.

I work as an editor of vocational training materials, and although I think I have a natural ability for it, I've never been formally trained in editing. There are no courses I can take where I live, but I'd like to improve as much as I can, and part of this is building up a reference library for myself. (Plus, I'd like to do something useful with Kevin Rudd's magic money.)

I'm aware of the Snooks Style Manual, which seems to be the go-to here, but I would like to know what other books people find the most useful. I'm looking for both style/grammar references and textbooks which will help me fill the gaps in my knowledge.

Australian advice would be really helpful, but I'm happy to receive suggestions of British and American books, as well as suggestions for various types of editing work. I'm mainly looking for books, but suggestions for useful resources in other formats are also welcome.

Also - and this is possibly a long shot - does anyone have any thoughts on the IPEd accreditation program? I'm considering sitting the exam but I'm not sure how recognised and valuable it is.

Thanks!
posted by Emilyisnow to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a book editor in the U.S.; our bible is the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., which -- besides being an extensive style guide -- covers editing and book production from soup to nuts. You can subscribe online or get it the old-fashioned way. There are other specialized style guides in the U.S., such as AP (Associated Press) style for journalists and MLA (Modern Language Association) style for academic and scholarly publishing, but Chicago's the one I'd start with if you want to get the big picture of editing.

If Chicago seems too daunting (or if you like it but would like an additional source), I'd recommend The Copyeditor's Handbook.
posted by scody at 12:44 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


From a copy editor of two (American) university newspapers, the Chicago Manual of Style was second only to the Associated Press Stylebook.
posted by cmchap at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2009


You probably already have it, but just to make sure: no book will help you more than the slimmest of them all, Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.

As for a good editing manual, there's a free treasure online: The Economist Style Guide. You can also buy the extended, harcover version.
posted by dov at 2:58 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Echoing cmchap and scody, Chicago and the AP Stylebook are the standard American references. Words into Type hasn't been updated for a long time, but is also good.

For UK style, in addition to the Economist style book, you should have a copy of Fowler's on your shelf. New Hart's Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors is also helpful.
posted by quidividi at 3:20 AM on May 9, 2009


All American, sorry:

Joseph W. Williams - Style

Bill Bryson - Dictionary of Troublesome Words

Bill Walsh - The Elephants of Style and Lapsing into a Comma
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:47 AM on May 9, 2009


I second scody's recommendation of The Copyeditor's Handbook.

no book will help you more than the slimmest of them all, Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.

Absolute bullshit. That book can sometimes help fledgling writers trim their excesses, but it is of no conceivable use to an editor.

/have been an editor for twenty years
posted by languagehat at 5:53 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


In addition to CMS, back when I was editing, I got a lot of use out of Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors. While not as authoritative as CMS, nor as exhaustive, the Manual covers most things that come up. Where the book really helped me learn how to do the job was its explication of the production process -- from manuscript submission to blueline approval.

I agree with languagehat's estimation of Elements here, but I think his expression of that opinion might benefit from some editorial restraint.
posted by notyou at 7:43 AM on May 9, 2009


Dear languagehat, I've been an editor for more than your "twenty years", and I'm perfectly entitled to my opinion. By the way, "Absolute bullshit" is one of those fashionable terms a good editor would delete from your post. Some words add nothing but length to your prose: Use adjectives to make your meaning more precise and be cautious of those you find yourself using to make it more emphatic.
posted by dov at 7:49 AM on May 9, 2009


Two recommendations that I have not yet read but look interesting, at least:

Developmental Editing

The Subversive Copy Editor

Are you talking about editing grammar, or what is called "developmental editing" -- the structure and organization of the material, more than just copyediting?

Also, I have mixed feelings on Strunk & White, so you're both right. I always enjoyed having it on the shelf, giving me the stinkeye every time I left in an instance of "the fact that" and encouraging me to omit needless words. Yet this article and other criticisms should not be ignored:

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

So read it, but read the article, too.
posted by theredpen at 8:06 AM on May 9, 2009


The Oxford Style Manual is a superset of Hart's Rules and ODWES (the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors), and is both an essential reference and helpful read.

Must also recommend Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers as an introduction to the craft and the closest thing to Strun k& White for editors that I've seen.
posted by fightorflight at 9:59 AM on May 9, 2009


The Oxford Style Manual is a superset of Hart's Rules and ODWES (the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors), and is both an essential reference and helpful read.

Must also recommend Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers as an introduction to the craft and the closest thing to Strunk & White for editors that I've seen.
posted by fightorflight at 9:59 AM on May 9, 2009


On oldie that I loved during my editing days: Theodore M. Bernstein's "The Careful Writer."
posted by lazydog at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2009


Seconding The Subversive Copyeditor.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2009


I'm Australian and I use Snook's and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, because the field I work in relies on APA style.
posted by b33j at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2009


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