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Must-Have References for Copyediting and Proofreading

Part of the Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies Cheat Sheet

If you’re a copyeditor or proofreader, you know the importance of good reference sources. Much of the information in desk references can be found on the Internet, but a good copyeditor or proofreader should have hard-copy references as well. (You never know when your Internet connection may slow to a crawl.) The following list contains five references you can’t live without:

  • House style sheet: You get this reference from the company you work for or, if you freelance, the person who hires you. When you question how something is presented in a document, it’s the first reference you check.

  • Style manual: Your employer or client is likely to have a favored style manual, which may be The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, or The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. If the house style sheet doesn’t answer your question, check the style manual. And make sure you know which edition of the style manual is being used.

  • Dictionary: Don’t copyedit or proofread without one. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition is preferred by many professionals, but you must use whatever dictionary your employer or client prefers. Get the latest edition; language changes quickly, especially in the technical realm.

  • Grammar and usage guide: Some examples are Garner’s Modern American Usage, The Elements of Style, Words Into Type, and The Merriam-Webster Usage Dictionary.

  • Specialty references: Some books that may be helpful include The Synonym Finder by Rodale, Merriam-Webster’s Geographical Dictionary, Wired Style, and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Depending on the types of projects you work on, your bookshelf may soon sport specialty references you never imagined needing.

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