By Katrina Oko-Odoi
Let’s face it: most high school seniors and college freshmen aren’t expert writers. Far from it, in fact. But that’s okay; that’s where external resources like reference books come in. While the internet might seem like a fine source for help with grammar and other common writing errors, there is a lot to be said about having a reference book in hand throughout the writing process. It’s the next-best-thing to an actual writing instructor! The books listed below contain all the information necessary organized in one cohesive package, ensuring that you don’t waste time searching the internet one grammar rule at a time.
These references are tried and true by writers, writing instructors, and students alike. Whether you’re applying to colleges, just started your freshmen year, or you’re returning as a junior or senior, these books are the key to your writing success.
General Writing Reference Books
A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers
A solid writer’s handbook. Hacker has written several writer’s reference books that have become staples for academic writers. All of her books are very complete and up-to-date. Nancy Sommers has stepped in as a new co-author to keep these classics updated. If you’re looking for a more concise guide, the pair’s A Pocket Style Manual is a shorter, portable handbook.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
This is a classic, concise handbook that writers swear by. Plus, it’s pocket-size!
The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane Aaron
A standard style book that is the perfect resource for writing college papers. It’s a go-to handbook for college English teachers.
The Gregg Reference Manual by William Sabin
A well-rounded manual that covers style, grammar, usage, and formatting. Great for writing college and research papers.
Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers, 4th ed. by Kate Turabian
This is an excellent handbook for – you guessed it – writing college papers. Turbian focuses on the research process, as well as formulating an argument, writing and drafting the essay, and using sources accurately.
Writing in the Works by Susan Blau and Kathryn Burak
This textbook is used in many composition classes and contains informative chapters on grammar and punctuation, commonly confused words, and MLA format. In sum, it’s a reliable source for basic grammar and writing.
Essential Style Guides
Now in its seventh edition, the handbook for MLA style (produced by the Modern Language Association) is essential for students and scholars in the Humanities. It is the standard style required for English and Literature classes.
The sixth edition is the most current for APA style, the standard format required for most social science disciplines.
With two different systems, Notes and Author-Date, Chicago Style is used in a range of disciplines. This most recent, sixteenth edition is an excellent resource for students, scholars, and professional writers.
Great Supplementary Resources
Roget’s Thesaurus, 7th ed.
There’s nothing better than a thesaurus to expand your vocabulary! There’s also an online version.
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by Geoffrey O’Brien and John Bartlett
Quotations are great for inspiration, and they work great as a hook or to add depth to a paper.
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