Thursday, November 07, 2019

What’s in your wallet?

This week, my audiobook is Dreyer’s English, by Random House copy chief, now NYT best-seller, Benjamin Dreyer. I listen to it at the gym, in the car, and walking the dog. It’s funny, insightful, and authoritative. I want a hardcopy for my desk.

My tired but trusted 3rd ed.
One thing I enjoy most about the work is Dreyer’s early mention of the style books he has on his desk.

This got me thinking . . .

Every writer keeps their favorite style books –– those broken-spined, annotated, dog-eared copies they return to over and again –– on their desk. I’m going to offer an I’ll show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours look at my desk copies.

For me, the book I have toted in my laptop bag on vacations, brought with me on business trips when I know I’ll have time to write, and rests on my desk when I’m at home is The Elements of Style –– timeless, brief, easy. If I’m being honest with you –– and I am –– I must confess to double-checking the difference between and Lay/Lie so often that my 1979 edition of the book practically falls open to page 51.

When I published my first novel, my editor told me the publishing house used Chicago Style, so I ran out and spent close to $75 on the The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (14th Edition). (That edition now lists for $18.99 on Amazon, if you’re interested.) It’s easy to use, and everything you could possibly need is in there.
As a former newspaperman, the AP Stylebook is always nearby. It’s handy for checking abbreviations and capitalization rules. On a related note, The Word: An Associated Press Guide to News Writing, by Rene Cappon, is one of the best style guides –– and just a really interesting read –– that you will come across. (It’s $3 used on Amazon.) I often share the section about syntax and sentences length with students.

These are my top style books, guides I turn to when the prose waters get choppy, companions I find it reassuring to have on my desk. I’d love to hear what style books you have on your desk.

1 comment:

Anna said...

All of the above, plus Words into Type, 3rd edition. It may be dated (1974), but the information is still timely, most terms and principles are more accessible than their counterparts in Chicago, and the index is superb (unlike the index in Chicago, which is so poorly constructed as to be infuriating).