10 Best Books for Proofreaders and Editors

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Excelling in the proofreading industry takes a lot of work and training. One way you can improve your skills is by reading up on books about the editing process. 

Take a look at the ten best books for editors and proofreaders you can add to your library. The list contains basic grammar and punctuation guides and more in-depth materials on the craft of proofreading.

Best Books for Editors

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When it comes to books you’ll need, these are some of the most popular on the market. I’d definitely recommend you check them out, especially before jumping into an editing and proofreading course.

McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook by Laura Anderson

The Proofreading Handbook is one of many reference books you should have before starting your proofreading career. This book for proofreaders initially came out in 1990. But a newer edition was launched in 2006 for editors and proofreaders to use as a guide. 

With the help of this handbook, you’ll attract more clients while showing accuracy in using American English. It’s also a must-have book if you’ve never owned a stylebook or a style sheet.

Anderson will teach you successful proofreading strategies, grammar corrections, and punctuation practices. Copy editors and proofreaders will love the examples the author gave, especially the ones in the Appendix.

The Appendix part of the Proofreading Handbook lists common errors in spelling. It also includes misused words and phrases and the three types of style sheets. These include the client, manuscript, and the general office.

One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? by Mary Louise Gilman

The most confusing spellings often involve compound words, and One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? will help you. It’s like a punctuation book that only focuses on using hyphens, listing a broad range of terms to answer what the question in the title states. 

An amazing copy editor or proofreader has a thorough knowledge of the correct spellings of different words. Otherwise, their freelance proofreading business won’t receive good reviews. Mary Louise Gilman’s book provides a quick reference in case you forgot these guidelines. 

Gilman provides lots of examples in this handbook, especially the most confusing phrases. It’s one of the most excellent books you should have. Perhaps you can practice and memorize its content, so you don’t have to keep coming back to it.

However, this book is still in its first version. It was first published in 1998, so it’s 24 years old now. You can consult the Merriam-Webster dictionary for words that aren’t on One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated?

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

If you want a fun yet practical guide to using the English language, give Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing a try. It’s one of the best grammar books by the Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty. 

This easy-to-read book provides a fantastic guide for freelance editors, proofreaders, and writers on the uses and misuses of language. Learn different topics on punctuation rules, capitalization, and sentence structure. You’ll also learn about “dirty” words and pronouns.

The cool selling point of this book is Mignon Fogarty’s writing style. She’s casual, fun, and witty as she teaches you about the English language. Despite her direct writing, she also knows how to explain many grammar rules well.

Some grammar books are confusing despite their comprehensive explanations. But Grammar Girl ensures you understand everything through her examples. 

This reference book by Grammar Girl offers a paper version. But you can get the digital version on Amazon, too. 

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyer’s English is an introductory level grammar book for aspiring American editors and proofreaders who want to deepen their grammar knowledge. It’s a favorite grammar book in the content industry because of the hilarious examples and educational topics.

The US bestseller starts his advice by telling proofreaders, writers, and copy editors to stop using words like “actually” and “really.” He also mentions the importance of reading your prose aloud to see if it’s well-constructed.

The book also focuses on different style guides that offer readability. A section also provides guidance on spelling and other writing conventions. 

But what I love most about Dreyer is his ability to answer simple questions, such as whether you should italicize book titles. He also answers when it’s okay to split infinitives and when to spell out a number. 

Watch your business boom as you apply his pieces of advice to your proofreading projects. Following Drey’s style guide will also attract the ideal client. 

A couple of reference books in your library won’t be enough without Dreyer’s English. Purchase the paperback or online version now.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period by June Casagrande

Expand your punctuation knowledge with this famous book by June Casagrande called The Best Punctuation Book. It contains 242 pages of detailed rules that will make you one of the best proofreaders in the industry.

Casagrande’s material is one of the many editing books that provides intense grammar knowledge. Every detail is included, from verb tenses to major style guides. You can also practice becoming an experienced editor or proofreader through its grammar examples.

But before discussing additional language information, Casagrande teaches how to use the book. She notes that some examples are only appropriate for specific edits, such as book editing, science proofreading, or academic writing.

Answer a hands-on practice after finishing the book to see if you’ve learned anything from The Best Punctuation Book. Make sure to apply all conventions to your job to improve your client relations and win more projects.

The book’s paperback version comes with an extra cost than the Kindle version.

Copyediting & Proofreading for Dummies

Copyediting & Proofreading for Dummies is a valuable tool for aspiring proofreaders and copy editors who want to join the content industry. It’s one of the best books for editors and proofreaders, providing more than just spelling, grammar, and punctuation guides.

Learn different publishing terms so you can quickly fit into the workplace. You’ll also discover common editing practices for individual blog posts and other content. There are also posts on style guides to show you the diverse writing standards.

Many book chapters also have a client focus. For example, it will give you advice on dealing with clients or organizing your workflows. 

Master the art of precision writing!

Embark on our proofreading and editing course.

The Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R.L. Trask

If punctuations are challenging to you, The Penguin Guide to Punctuation will be beneficial. It’s a jargon-free and succinct guide that will eliminate all your confusion about hyphens, apostrophes, commas, and other symbols. 

The Penguin Guide to Punctuation is short and sweet but has everything you need. Aside from punctuations, it also helps with capital letters, abbreviations, italics, and contractions. It will also help you with special characters on MS Word or Docs. 

I like how Trask lists all the rules on using every punctuation. For example, the author lists six rules for using a comma. Each guideline even has several sub-cases and examples.

Additional Books for Proofreaders

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition (CMOS)

The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most essential style guides you should have in your stash. You should get it if you plan on spending money on reference books. This indispensable guide offers editing guides for every manuscript editor.

Learn when to use capital letters, em dashes, and how to format dialogues through this book for grammar rules. Chicago is also one of the books for proofreaders primarily used in North America. Other topics include when to use an ellipsis, how to write a bibliography, and more.

Other proofreading books about style guides you should get include Modern Language Association and The Associated Press Stylebook.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Aside from having a book about grammar, a proofreader must also have a dictionary. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is an official book that consists of different American English terms, their correct spellings, and their definitions.

It’s a handy guide for proofreaders who need help with correct spelling to improve their proofreading practice. Merriam-Webster is also an excellent dictionary for editors working in the content industry. 

This dictionary is not just for professional copy editors. It’s also a reference book for kids who need to widen their vocabulary in school.

Editing Canadian English

A couple of books about proofreading already cater to the American book publishing industry. But Editing Canadian English provides a comprehensive style guide and grammar guide for Canadian pieces.

Learn the ins and outs of the English language through his little-known book. It’s also one of the most esteemed style guides in the country that presents a systematic approach to Canadian styles. This reference material also has numerous examples to support the information.

Use this book as a pocket guide for a more extensive copyediting practice. Your Canadian client will appreciate you for it. 

Reading Makes One a Better Proofreader

This article just showed you the 10 best books for editors and proofreaders. Through these learning resources, you’ll be able to invest in your knowledge and skills for your proofreading and editing business to thrive.

Collect reference materials like dictionaries and style guides first to learn the basics. Then, you can try more comprehensive resources about the editing process and industry.