Recommended Reading for Editors

This hot new track (read: listicle [still hot and new]) is for the editors out there. So, editors, grab that special style manual or manuscript and head to the dance floor (or, more appropriately, your desk)—we’re about to break it down for you with a sweet little recommended reading list. Oh, yeah.

Now, I do have a quick disclaimer for this list: One of the truths of being an effective editor is that, on top of knowing the minute mechanics of proper grammar and usage according to The Chicago Manual of Style or whichever manual you work with (and whichever house style guide applies), the editor must understand what makes writing interesting, engaging, and enjoyable—and the editor must be able to explain this to the author if necessary. As such, not all of these books will focus solely on editing; some of them are style guides and will therefore focus more on the mechanics of writing. They’re still important and still relevant. If you haven’t read them already, give them a chance.

  1. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn
    This handy handbook, written by Amy Einsohn, explains the practices of copyeditors—from general information about copyediting tasks, levels of editing, style sheets, querying, and resources to the technical bits regarding grammar, punctuation, tables and graphs, front and back matter, and even typecoding. It provides examples and exercises for more novice editors, as well as information about updates to The Chicago Manual of Style for more seasoned editors’ edification.
  2. The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) by Carol Fisher Saller
    As the title suggests, this particular guide gives readers advice on how to navigate difficult relationships—with a stubborn writer, with disagreeing colleagues, and with your perfectionist side. This guide is perfect for those learning to work in the editorial profession (which is different from just doing some editing). So, while it doesn’t get deep into the mechanics of writing, it is essential in its own way.
  3. Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton
    This one is for the developmental editors out there, but it does include some helpful tips for copyeditors. This guide uses a variety of nonfiction books as case studies to inform Norton’s lessons about building narratives, shaping proposals, establishing a hook, and instituting an effective style and an engaging storyline.
  4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
    This is a well-known, widely-renowned style manual. While I don’t think it’s going to revolutionize the way you think about writing style, it is absolutely, undeniably a classic and therefore is worth a shot—if for no other reason than to familiarize yourself with a cultural touchstone of the writing and editing world.
  5. What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) by Peter Ginna
    Okay, this one is really for those who are just getting into the publishing world and trying to get a grasp on how editing in book publishing works and what types of work are available. It could also make a slightly sassy, definitely passive-aggressive gift for those people in your life who keep asking what you, an editor, do and how exactly you’re making money from that. This book has essays from people in the book publishing industry who discuss what they do and how they do it, including perspectives from both large and small publishing houses, academic publishing, children’s publishing, and more. It emphasizes the continuing importance of editors and gives advice on how to enter the field.

There are many more guides out there for many different types of editors. This list is in no way meant to be comprehensive—it’s short and sweet and really just an introduction. No matter what type of editor you are or what you’re editing, these books will aid you in your quest to be the best editor you can be.