6 Books for Aspiring Copyeditors

Having a working knowledge of copyediting can’t hurt; it can only make you a better writer.  With that in mind, this book list is for aspiring copyeditors, freelance or otherwise, but it is also for anyone in the world of words from publishers, editors, and proofreaders, to writers, authors, and bloggers.  It’s for anyone who writes and wants to improve; anyone who works in written communication.  Here are my 6 choices on copyediting with blurbs from GoodReads:

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

subversive copyeditor“Each year writers and editors submit over three thousand grammar and style questions to the Q&A page at The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Some are arcane, some simply hilarious—and one editor, Carol Fisher Saller, reads every single one of them. All too often she notes a classic author-editor standoff, wherein both parties refuse to compromise on the “rights” and “wrongs” of prose styling: “This author is giving me a fit.” “I wish that I could just DEMAND the use of the serial comma at all times.” “My author wants his preface to come at the end of the book. This just seems ridiculous to me. I mean, it’s not a post-face.”  In The Subversive Copy Editor, Saller casts aside this adversarial view and suggests new strategies for keeping the peace. Emphasizing habits of carefulness, transparency, and flexibility, she shows copy editors how to build an environment of trust and cooperation. One chapter takes on the difficult author; another speaks to writers themselves. Throughout, the focus is on serving the reader, even if it means breaking “rules” along the way. Saller’s own foibles and misadventures provide ample material: “I mess up all the time,” she confesses. “It’s how I know things.”  Writers, Saller acknowledges, are only half the challenge, as copy editors can also make trouble for themselves. (Does any other book have an index entry that says “terrorists. See copy editors”?) The book includes helpful sections on e-mail etiquette, work-flow management, prioritizing, and organizing computer files. One chapter even addresses the special concerns of freelance editors.  Saller’s emphasis on negotiation and flexibility will surprise many copy editors who have absorbed, along with the dos and don’ts of their stylebooks, an attitude that their way is the right way. In encouraging copy editors to banish their ignorance and disorganization, insecurities and compulsions, the Chicago Q&A presents itself as a kind of alter ego to the comparatively staid Manual of Style. In The Subversive Copy Editor, Saller continues her mission with audacity and good humor.” (GoodReads)

The Copy Editing And Headline Handbook by Barbara G. Ellis

copyediting and headline handbook“Everyone in the newsroom agrees that copy editors are the unsung heroes in the business who, until now, have never had a succinct and authoritative guide for on-the-job use. From counting the headline to line breaks, from decks to jumps, from editing numbers and photo captions to editing for organization, The Copy Editing and Headline Handbook is the complete source of essential information for the copy editor. Whether copy editing on a computer or on the printed page, for a newspaper or for a magazine, Barbara Ellis shows how to clean, organize, and proof copy like a pro. With special sections on libel, captions, forbidden words, job hazards, and head counts, as well as a section of the most commonly used symbols in copy editing and proofreading, the Handbook is essential for every copy editor’s bookshelf.” (GoodReads)

The Fine Art of Copyediting by Elsie Myers Stainton

fine art of copyediting“Many stylebooks and manuals explain writing, but before the release ten years ago of Elsie Myers Stainton’s “The Fine Art of Copyediting, ” few addressed the practices and problems of editing. This handbook has guided users through the editing process for books and journals, with tips on how to be diplomatic when recommending changes, how to edit notes and bibliographies, how to check proofs, and how to negotiate the ethical, intellectual, and emotional problems characteristic of the editorial profession. Now featuring solid advice on computer editing and a new chapter on style, as well as more information on references, bibliographies, indexing, and bias-free writing.  Complete with helpful checklists for the manuscript, proof, and index stages of book production, as well as an excellent bibliography of reference works useful to the copyeditor, “The Fine Art of Copyediting, Second Edition” is an indispensable desk reference for writers and editors confronting a host of questions each day. Why use the word “people” instead of “persons?” What precautions are necessary for publishers to avoid libel suits? How can an editor win an author’s trust? What type fonts facilitate the copyediting process? How does computer editing work? For experienced and novice copyeditors, writers and students, this is the source for detailed, step-by-step guidance to the entire editorial process.” (GoodReads)

Butcher’s Copy-Editing by Judith Butcher

Butcher's copyediting“Since its first publication in 1975, Judith Butcher’s Copy-editing has become firmly established as a classic reference guide. This fourth edition has been comprehensively revised to provide an up-to-date and clearly presented source of information for all those involved in preparing typescripts and illustrations for publication. From the basics of how to prepare text and illustrations for the designer and typesetter, through the ground rules of house style, to how to read and correct proofs, Copy-editing covers all aspects of the editorial process. New and revised features: up-to-date advice on indexes, inclusive language, reference systems and preliminary pages a chapter devoted to on-screen copy-editing guidance on digital coding and publishing in other media such as e-books updated to take account of modern typesetting and printing technology an expanded section on law books an essential tool for new and experienced copy-editors, working freelance or in-house” (GoodReads)

The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn

copyeditors handbook“The Copyeditor’s Handbook is a lively, practical manual for newcomers to publishing and for experienced editors who want to fine-tune their skills or broaden their understanding of the craft. Addressed to copyeditors in book publishing and corporate communications, this thoughtful handbook explains what copyeditors do, what they look for when they edit a manuscript, and how they develop the editorial judgment needed to make sound decisions.  This revised edition reflects the most recent editions of The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.), the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.), and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).” (GoodReads)

Developmental Editing by Scott Norton

developmental editing“Editing is a tricky business. It requires analytical flair and creative panache, the patience of a saint and the vision of a writer. Transforming a manuscript into a book that edifies, inspires, and sells? That’s the job of the developmental editor, whose desk is the first stop for many manuscripts on the road to bookdom—a route ably mapped out in the pages of Developmental Editing.  Author Scott Norton has worked with a diverse range of authors, editors, and publishers, and his handbook provides an approach to developmental editing that is logical, collaborative, humorous, and realistic. He starts with the core tasks of shaping the proposal, finding the hook, and building the narrative or argument, and then turns to the hard work of executing the plan and establishing a style.  Developmental Editing includes detailed case studies featuring a variety of nonfiction books—election-year polemic, popular science, memoir, travel guide—and authors ranging from first-timer to veteran, journalist to scholar. Handy sidebars offer advice on how to become a developmental editor, create effective illustration programs, and adapt sophisticated fiction techniques (such as point of view, suspense, plotting, character, and setting) to nonfiction writing.  Norton’s book also provides freelance copyeditors with a way to earn higher fees while introducing more creativity into their work lives. It gives acquisitions, marketing, and production staff a vocabulary for diagnosing a manuscript’s flaws and techniques for transforming it into a bestseller. And perhaps most importantly, Developmental Editing equips authors with the concrete tools they need to reach their audiences.” (GoodReads)

Have any other recommendations for us?  I’d love to hear them.

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Write Great Fiction with this Book Series

The wonderful Write Great Fiction series is published by Writers’ Digest Books and consists of 5 titles.  The books are written by different authors and each one focuses on a key area in the construction of great fiction writing.  I’ve been meaning to get to these books for myself and I think they are a very good place to start if you’re looking for books to read to get you onto the path of skills development for your writing.  The authors of these books are all accomplished writers and in particular James Scott Bell and Nancy Kress have written other popular books on the craft of writing.  Here are the five books that make up the Write Great Fiction series with blurbs from GoodReads:

Dialogue by Gloria Kempton

dialogue“Craft Compelling Dialogue.  When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say, and when should he say it? How do you know when dialogue—or the lack thereof—is dragging down your scene? How do you fix character who speaks with the laconic wit of the Terminator? Write Great Fiction: Dialogue by successful author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers to all of these questions and more! It’s packed with innovative exercises and instructions designed to teach you how to: Create dialogue that drives the story; Weave dialogue with narrative and action; Use dialogue to pace your story; Write dialogue that fits specific genres; Avoid the common pitfalls of writing dialogue; Make dialogue unique for each character.  Along with dozens of dialogue excerpts form today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Dialogue gives you the edge you need to make your story stand out from the rest.”  (GoodReads)

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

plot“The second book in the Write Great Fiction series, Plot and Structure offers clear and concise information on creating a believable and engaging plot that readers can’t resist. Written by award-winning thriller and suspense author James Scott Bell, this handy instruction guide provides: Easy-to-understand techniques on every aspect of plotting and structure, from brainstorming story ideas to building scenes, and from using subplots to crafting knock-out endings; Engaging exercises, perfect for writers at any level and at any stage in their novel; Practical and encouraging guidance from one of the most respected writers publishing today; Full of diagrams, plot brainstormers, and examples from popular novels, mastering plot and structure has never been so simple.”  (GoodReads)

Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

characters“Create Complex Characters.  How do you create a main character readers won’t forget? How do you write a book in multiple-third-person point of view without confusing your readers (or yourself)? How do you plant essential information about a character’s past into a story?  Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by award-winning author Nancy Kress answers all of these questions and more! This accessible book is filled with interactive exercises and valuable advice that teaches you how to: Choose and execute the best point of view for your story; Create three-dimensional and believable characters; Develop your characters’ emotions; Create realistic love, fight, and death scenes; Use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story.  With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint provides you with the techniques you need to create characters and stories sure to linger in the hearts and minds of agents, editors, and readers long after they’ve finished your book.”  (GoodReads)

Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle

description“Build a Believable World. How essential is setting to a story? How much description is too much? In what ways do details and setting tie into plot and character development? How can you use setting and description to add depth to your story?  You can find all the answers you need in “Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting” by author and instructor Ron Rozelle. This nuts-and-bolts guide – complete with practical exercises at the end of each chapter – gives you all the tips and techniques you need to: Establish a realistic sense of time and place; Use description and setting to drive your story; Craft effective description and setting for different genres; Skillfully master showing vs. telling.  With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, “Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting” gives you all the information you need to create a sharp and believable world of people, places, events, and actions.”  (GoodReads)

Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell

revision“Spot and Fix Manuscript Missteps.  Don’t let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft readers won’t be able to forget.  In Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell draws on his experience as a novelist and instructor to provide specific revision tips geared toward the first read-through, as well as targeted self-editing instruction focusing on the individual elements of a novel like plot, structure, characters, theme, voice, style, setting, and endings. You’ll learn how to: Write a cleaner first draft right out of the gate using Bell’s plotting principles; Get the most out of revision and self-editing techniques by honing your skills with detailed exercises; Systematically revise a completed draft using the ultimate revision checklist that talks you through the core story elements.  Whether you’re in the process of writing a novel, have a finished draft you don’t know what to do with, or have a rejected manuscript you don’t know how to fix, Revision & Self-Editing gives you the guidance you need to write and revise like a pro.”  (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

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Must Have Writers’ Reference Books

books writers must have

While searching for literature reading lists online I came across the Warwick University reading list for The Practise of Fiction and here are the reference books every writer needs in his arsenal to take on writing fiction:

The Oxford English Dictionary

Your own copy of the Oxford English Dictionary is essential.  The list talks about the twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary as being the best reference tool but if you don’t have all those they say the desktop version is good enough for everyday use.  I personally have the Concise Oxford English Dictionary which continues to serve me very well.  Don’t see myself buying a 20 volume dictionary set but if that’s for you, get it.

“The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is the most popular dictionary of its kind around the world and is noted for its clear, concise definitions as well as its comprehensive and authoritative coverage of the vocabulary of the English-speaking world. Authoritative and up to date, this eleventh edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary contains over 240,000 words, phrases, and definitions, including 900 new words. It offers rich vocabulary coverage, with full treatment of World English, rare, historical, and archaic terms, as well as scientific and technical vocabulary, and provides hundreds of helpful notes on grammar and usage.”

The Roget’s Thesaurus

Another essential tool is a thesaurus.  The Roget’s Thesaurus is the best unless you are American in which case an American thesaurus would be best.

“Roget’s Thesaurus is the world’s most trusted wordfinder and is the essential companion for anyone who wants to improve their command, creative use and enjoyment of the language. It remains, definitively, a writer’s best friend.”

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage

The recommended book on English Usage is the 1996 New Fowler’s edited by R. W. Burchfield.

“First published in 1926, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage is one of the most celebrated reference books of the twentieth century. Commonly known as “Fowler,” after its inimitable author, H.W. Fowler, it has sold more than a million copies and maintained a devoted following over seven decades, in large part because of its charming blend of information and good humor, delivered in the voice of a genial if somewhat idiosyncratic schoolmaster.”

The Oxford English Grammar

A good book on grammar is also essential and the Oxford English Grammar by Sidney Greenbaum comes recommended.

“Written by one of the world’s leading grammarians, The Oxford English Grammar is an authoritative review of and topic reference for English grammar.”

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style by W Strunk and E B White is well known and a must for every writer.

“You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”

Line by Line

Line by Line by Claire Kherwald Cook is the recommended reference book on editing.

“The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.”

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