In my line of work, we use several resources to guide our decision-making. These are our tools of the trade, helping us keep things consistent and in order. If you are writing or editing any type of content, I recommend you utilize one or more of these resources and keep your own in-house style sheet (I’ll be posting about that soon).
Here are my top resources for writing and editing:
1. The Chicago Manual of Style
Here’s the style guide I used at my former job at an independent book publisher. The Chicago Manual of Style is very comprehensive (and thick!). I swear, it answers nearly every question that might come up when you are working on a document. I highly recommend this style guide for books.
Why I love Chicago style:
- Helpful chapter on punctuation
- Great advice for notes, references, and bibliographies
- Informative for beginning editors and writers who are learning about the process
Last year I began using the online version of the guide, making my editing work even more transportable. For just $35.00/month you can have access to the book as a searchable resource — making it easier for you to look up a term, question, or style preference.
2. The Associated Press Stylebook
I first used The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook when I worked for my college newspaper. I loved this resource for many reasons at the time, mostly because of its cut-and-dried approach to punctuation, terms, and formatting. Now, I have to admit, my love of the serial comma is strong, so exclusively referring to this style can be difficult (sorry to any of you who love the omission of that last comma in a series!). I recommend this style guide for writing intended for the web, newsletters, and magazines.
Why I love AP style:
- Good style for short-form writing
Make sure you start with the most recent edition of this book to avoid making any style decisions based on previous issues. In our constantly changing world, many of the terms and recommendations will change related to the web and other emerging technologies.
3. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Of all the style guides, I find this resource the most helpful and the most frustrating. You may be asked to follow this style book (hereafter called APA style) for higher education courses or for professional writing. Its main focuses are avoiding bias in your writing (important!), formatting academic papers (crucial if that’s what you need to do), and ensuring that your references are consistent and match the manual’s recommendations (I can guarantee you’ll never stop checking for ampersands and appropriate periods). These sections of the book are immensely helpful, though I find it difficult to use when I have higher-level grammar or style questions. Sometimes I will confer with Chicago to confirm those questions.
Why I love APA style:
- Great for academic writing
- Helpful tips for bias-free language
- Straightforward approach to references and citations
If you are using APA style and need more help, be sure to use the Publication Manual’s blog. It will provide you with plenty more information on writing and editing in APA style.
Okay, enough with the stylebooks! Here are some great web references that you can utilize for quick grammar, usage, and style questions.
I use merriam-webster.com as my go-to dictionary and thesaurus. It’s wise to have one specific dictionary to source for consistency. I recommend this tried-and-true version, and it’s the favorite of many stylebooks. You’ll be able to confirm spellings and capitalization as well as determine good synonyms when writing punchy copy. It even has a great medical dictionary and fun words of the day.
Okay, this is a little out of left field, but a lot of my clients use slang and colloquial language when writing blogs, newsletters, and other personal communications. Urban Dictionary is my source for looking up terms not in the Merriam-Webster (think figuring out what YOLO or FOMO means or deciding on a consistent spelling for “biznass” or “hair-did”).
I have a professional crush on Grammar Girl. She’s all-knowing and is great at explaining problematic grammar issues, such as affect vs. effect, split infinitives, and parallel construction. Whenever you have a grammar question, this site can give you helpful information and tips without a whiff of grammar snobbery (a pet peeve of mine!). It’s a great way to answer specific questions or to relearn grammar that you last thought about when writing your final school paper a decade or two ago.
I hope these resources can be helpful to you as you create and edit content. I am always here to help you with any type of writing or editing. Contact me at natalielsilver (at) yahoo (dot) com to discuss your project and needs.