A Writer’s Reference Shelf

August 30, 2006 With the wealth of information (and misinformation) available on-line, a reliable library is essential. Here’s an “reference shelf” of dictionaries, style guides and other books—for both British and American English—that will add polish and precision to your writing.


The Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0198610572. British usage

Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Random House, 1996, ISBN 0517118645. American usage


The Oxford Dictionary of the World, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0198600607. A comprehensive guide to countries, people and places

Pocket Ref, 2nd Edition, Thomas J. Glover, Sequoia Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1885071000. A small book filled with technical and scientific data, formulae, conversion tables and other useful information

Roget’s International Thesaurus, Collins, 2001, ISBN 0060185759. Roget’s is organized by concept rather than alphabetically, for maximum inspiration.


The Forbes Book of Business Quotations, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1997, ISBN 1884822622. Thoughts on commerce and life from American and international business people

The International Thesaurus of Quotations, HarperCollins, 1996, ISBN 0062733737. Sixteen thousand quotes indexed by subject, keyword and author

The New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, J.M. and M.J. Cohen, Penguin Books, 1998, ISBN 0140512446. A good selection of historical, biblical and literary quotations

Style guides

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, Perseus Books Group, 2006, ISBN 046500489X. The standard for American newspaper style

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 0226104036. The definitive guide to American usage

The Economist Style Guide, 9th Edition, Profile Books 2005, ISBN 1861979169. From the publishers of The Economist, this book includes a section on the difference between American and British usage.

The Elements of Style, Strunk & White, Allyn & Bacon Publishing; 2001, ISBN 020530902X. First published in 1957, this short book remains a classic.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0198610211. Since 1926, Fowler’s has been the standard reference for British usage.

New Hart’s Rules, Oxford University Press 2005, ISBN 0198610416. The British equivalent to The Chicago Manual of Style

Words into Type, 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall, 1974, ISBN 0139642625. A useful source of information on copyediting and typography