Copyediting resources

A copy editor is only as good as her bookshelf, or bookmarks. Here are some basic books that every copy editor should have:
  • One or two or four good dictionaries. Use a dictionary for spelling and understanding the nuance of a word. If it’s a good dictionary read the usage notes. For my recommendations click here. (And if you're wondering why I spell copy editor, the noun, one way, and copyediting, the verb, another, hie thee to Merriam-Webster.)
  • A good thesaurus. You’ll turn to one in your search for the perfect word. I firmly believe in a Roget’s style thesaurus. See more of my thoughts here.
  • Style guides. In the publishing world, editors and copy editors use the term “style” to refer to the very particular way they treat certain words, for example, using OK rather than okay. Copy editors may find themselves working for various publications, with each publication relying on a different style guide. Here are the ones every copy editor should be familiar with.
  • Usage guides explain the way we use words in English, and the subtle differences between certain words (e.g., affect and effect) that are often confused. See my recommendations here.
  • Grammar guides will remind you when to use who and whom, and they may tell you how deploy these grammatical fine points in your writing. Here are my favorites.
Additional resources to keep handy: The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, by Amy Einsohn, is a thorough guide to the craft of copyediting. Copy editors at all experience levels will find it useful. Words Into Type, by Marjorie Skillin and Robert M. Gay, is an older book, but it provides timeless advice on style, grammar, and more. References and tools such as almanacs, books of facts, and atlases (and a calculator!) are essential for fact-checking. Web sites to bookmark:  Library of Congress catalogs every book that has ever been published. It is a copy editor’s go-to for its databases and reference librarians. The online Guide to Grammar and Writing, sponsored by the nonprofit Capital Community College Foundation will answer many of your grammar questions, and clearly. is not as good as a print edition, but it gets close. Visit the blog at for answers to questions of grammar, usage, and style.


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  1. The art of copy | Sin and Syntax - November 17, 2017

    […] radio by the number of callers who want to discuss the fine points of language.) Take a look at “Copyediting Resources” in “Cool Tools” for the books I’ve found most useful. You may have to look around for […]

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