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Friday, December 3, 2010

Usage Books for You? For Gifts?

Writers usually know all about the helps we used when we were in the fourth grade. They have a thesaurus, a good dictionary, maybe even a rhyming dictionary.  But what about  “usage books?” I’m surprised more authors don’t know about them. They help with most things that perplex us, like pored vs. poured, even when they seem interchangeable in so many instances. Here are a few “usage books:”
Fowler’s Modern American Usage

Garner’s Modern American Usage

Webster’s Modern American Usage

My favorite grammar guru, June Casagrande, says, usage books are “written for our convenience . . . “, meaning they make it easy on us writers and researchers to find what we need. She suggests you check “vale of tears.” Is it “veil” or “vale?"  Sometimes it isn't easy to pluck out the right answer using logic. Sometimes using our photographic memories doesn't work either because we've seen it used incorrectly in the past.

And then there's my little brush-up booklet Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers. It isn't a complete reference. Rather it lists a few wordtrippers and mixes them with a little humor to encourage you to review and maybe learn something you got wrong a long time ago and don't know it.

So, now. Do you need one of these books on your desk? Do you know someone you could give one to for the holidays?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Learn more about her other authors' aids at, where writers will find lists and other helps on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

1 comment:

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