3 Writing References Trusted by the Best Writers

If you want to write, read. Devour pages by the hour. Pick books from various genres you love, hate, or both. The most memorable lessons and lines are derived from those you read with so much fervor that you can’t put the book down. The gist is this: reading makes you a better writer. So don’t stop.

It’s not just exciting plot points you need to consider reading. The craft is very specific to rules of usage and grammar. How do you think great writers survived without their trusted writing references by their side? Take a look at the following references that writers trust and use:

Usage Dictionaries and Thesaurus

The late David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, creative writing professor, and contributor to The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, swore by the big trio when it comes to writing: i.e., a big dictionary, a usage dictionary, and a thesaurus.

Maria Popova noted how Wallace referred to the usage dictionary as “a linguistic hard drive” and called it “one of the greatest bathroom books of all time.” In the essay Authority and American Usage, Wallace commended Bryan Garner’s A Dictionary of American Usage for its resolution of the usage wars problems of authority. Referring to usage dictionaries such as this can greatly aid writers in dealing with common problems such as which verb to use with what preposition in a given context, and other issues.

Style Manuals

In his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, psycholinguist Steven Pinker said, “I like to read style manuals for another reason, the one that sends botanists to the garden and chemists to the kitchen: it’s a practical application of our science.” He cited the avoidance of the passive voice as among the many manual teachings of the past as bad advice. For Pinker, it’s important to read style manuals such as Elements of Style by Strunk and White to be familiar with past writing dogmas and either reassess their present application or find ways to rekindle the craft.

The Oxford Book of English Verse

1954 Nobel Prize winner for Literature Ernest Hemingway was noted to have used The Oxford Book of English Verse and the Bible to find phrases to use as titles for his novels. This was the same process that he used to come up with the title for the novel A Farewell to Arms. While using verses as a source for titles may not work for most writers, we can find that reading through them actually expands the writers’ horizon. Poetry has always been a hallmark for creative prose. Its conventional and free forms can be elegant sources of inspiration for any writing composition.

While the listed references may be considered commonplace in the writers’ bookcase, many aspiring writers may need the reminder. Writing is a process, and these references can be effective tools for getting quality products out of their head and into the market.

Rowena Diocton
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