Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Communicators share 10 of their go-to writing reference books

You like old-school writing references? Try this one on for size: An ancient writer must have really needed a ready reference to take the time to chisel this very-hard-copy Mesopotamian list of synonyms. I found it when I was roaming the halls of the British Museum on my visit to London last month.

Recently, I asked readers on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter what their go-to writing reference books include these days--and I'm sharing a couple more I learned about at the European Speechwriter Network conference I chaired in Brussels this fall. You'll find a nice mix of old- and new-school scribe resources here:
  1. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition was Dom De Bellis's nomination. It strongly recommends, among other things, the Oxford comma.
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook 2013 (hardcopy and online) was nominated by Meghan Dotter and by Karl Leif Bates, who added, "Oxford commas be damned to hell!" (Happy to facilitate this conversation, gentlemen.) Andrew Overton gave the stylebook a resounding third recommendation. I'll just note you can follow the stylebook on Twitter, too.
  3. Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, 3rd Edition was another of Dotter's fine suggestions.
  4. The Word Finder, an old J.I. Rodale treasure, was suggested by humor writer and speechwriter Fred Metcalf, a longtime writer for the late Sir David Frost, in an interview in this edition of The Speechwriter newsletter. Metcalf notes that this gargantuan book--put together without the help of the Internet--includes descriptions for "forty ways of laughing" and "two hundred ways of describing a book." It's the volume he'd grab and take with him in a house fire, quite the endorsement. You're more likely to find a used copy these days, or try its companion volume, The Synonym Finder
  5. The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, Complete Text Reproduced Micrographically, suggested by Leslie Brunetta. That is, I'm suggesting the abridged version. She may have meant the much larger multi-volume comnplete dictionary.
  6. Webster's New World Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2nd Edition also made it on Brunetta's list. There had to be more than one dictionary, of course.
  7. Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition (21st Century Reference) wasn't the precise edition suggested by Crystal Borde, but a thesaurus is on her must list.
  8. The Elements of Style was first on Andrew Overton's list. And mine, by the way. I include here a link to the well-loved version by Strunk & White, although you'll find many recent reprints of the original Strunk version.
  9. Google. Brave Emily Culbertson admitted, "This is a hack, but Google. I am constantly checking definitions of words to see if they do what I want them to do, and I use the Web over dictionaries, I hate to say." Hey, I do that, too. Like having one great big Mesopotamian tablet in the cloud, don't you think?
  10. Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft was the suggestion of Kate Eidam. Far from being scary, it's a loving look at the work of writing.
Friends and colleagues of writers, any of these are wonderful thank-you and holiday gifts for your favorite scribe. Writers: Did we miss your favorite go-to writing reference book? Add it in the comments, please...

It's nearly the end of the year. Are you leaving professional development or training money on the table? Email me at infoATdontgetcaughtDOTbiz to schedule individual or group training in public speaking, presenting, or social media; to prep for your upcoming TED or TEDx talk; or a communications retreat.

No comments: