Booking Through Thursday: Manual Labor

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Hm…I’ve read a couple of the other responses to this questions and was surprised to find quite a few people who aren’t interested in reference books in the least. Some people say the English language makes sense to them so they don’t need to look things up, while others prefer to look things up online.

The problem arises, though, when you are working with a specific writing style (MLA, Chicago, AP) that requires exact uses of certain words. For instance in AP Style “website” is actually “Web site” and it must be written exactly this way – because it’s actually proper English. The problem I have with using the Internet (another AP particularity) as a resource for spelling and punctuation is that it’s often written by laypeople who aren’t interested in looking up correct punctuation and spelling. Nor do they bother to wonder whether they are using the right word for what they are trying to say. Oh, and what about the constant misuse of “their, they’re and there” and “your, you’re”? With actual reference material, these mistakes are more easily avoided. Yes, these are simple mistakes that wordy people likely don’t make, but there are plenty of times when I see big vocab being misused.

As for me, I have a ton of reference books. I actually have more of these than of regular books because for me to actually buy a book I have to see a value in it. I have to either not be able to get it at the library OR I have to know that I’ll go back to it again and again and again. I own one English dictionary, at least two French-English dictionaries, one Italian-English dictionary, one Spanish-English dictionary, a German-French dictionary, several French grammar books, a French verb conjugation book, a German grammar book, at least two AP Style guides (the newspaper writer’s bible), an MLA style guide (left over from my college years), and an English thesaurus. I probably own more, but these are all I can think of at the moment.

In addition to these reference books, the question asks about writing guides. I actually only own one of these – a how-to guide for writing children’s books – and have never read it. However, I do have two books on hold at my public library about how to write, and I have several on my TBR list. The reason I don’t usually get into these books though is because they take time and effort. I can’t just say, “Hey, I think I’ll pick up that book on writing memoirs today,” and voila! a memoir is made. It’ll probably take me a good couple of months to get through these type of books because they include writing assignments and creativity. But I feel if I ever really want to be a writer, I’m going to have to figure out how to grow my creativity first. So, the books remain on my list, waiting out their time, hoping one day I’ll finally pick them up and let them be read.

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Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 5:54 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great post.And reading the words “MLA style guide” almost sent me into shock. I’ve written two senior theses (?) in my day…cjh

  2. CJ: I’m know what you mean about MLA Style sending you into shock. I’m going to be starting grad school in the fall (after more than 3 years off!) and am dreading the thesis/MLA Style torture…

  3. I looked up the AP Guide at B&N and it’s now on my “to buy list” thanks for recommending it to me.

  4. Trisha: Make sure you get the 2008 version. That way it will last for a couple more years. I usually keep one for about three or four years before buying the newest one. (My current edition is the 2007 one).

  5. You brought up a reference book I’d almost forgotten about (blocked out?) I was a psych major in college, so we used APA style, and yeah that got a little tedious. But I loved my reference book and I have most of the examples memorized. My mom is finishing up grad school and a few months ago she paid me to put together her bibliography, so me and the old APA style book got reacquainted.

  6. Kim: Heh, this just goes to show how many stylebooks are out there AND how useful they are. I was actually referring to the Associated Press Style Book, not the American Psychological Association Stylebook. I’m sure they’re both great style guides and HUGELY confusing as far as punctuation. 😉

  7. Ack! APA makes me twitch. 🙂 For my undergrad work we used MLA. For my MBA we had to use APA and it just never seemed right after so many years with MLA! I also find myself frequently referring to the Chicago Manual of Style for usage issues. On a side note, I’m glad to finally find another blogging Becca! 🙂

  8. Becca: I saw my name on the notice for this comment and was like, “What?! I don’t remember leaving that!” Hahaha. Nice to meet you too 🙂


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