Write Now: Books, Guides Help With Writing Routine

By now you should have good ideas you want to commit to the blank page or screen. Some people still use typewriters, and some people write out in longhand before typing.

Any way you can get words to the page is half the battle. Some people I have talked with say they have ideas, but getting those ideas to the page is the problem. That is a topic for another day.

Whatever the length, you have finished your writing, and except for publishing, you have gone through the steps of the writing process. The publishing will come at a later date.

Now you are focusing on preparing another piece of writing. You may have struggled with the last piece, and you are looking to make the task a little less daunting. You are looking for some help to make the process more efficient.

Let me share some good news with you. If you are looking to hone your writing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills I may recommend these books to help you with your tasks. I can say these books are essential to your arsenal of writing tools, but it’s a judgment call on my part, and I want to leave the judgment up to you. To help with your writing endeavors, you may want to have at your fingertips or in reaching distance a dictionary, “The Elements of Style,” the “MLA Handbook,” a grammar book, “The Associated Press Style Book,” “Eats Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance to Punctuation,” and “A Writer’s Reference.” You may also want to find of a copy of “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”


I prefer to use any Webster’s edition of the book. When writing, this book should always be near you because of the information. Some writers are very good writers, but can be not-so-good spellers. Don’t trust the spell check on your computer because some words are not in its library, so you can look them up. One ironic note is that if you don’t know how to spell a word, the dictionary can be of no use because you would not know where to start. An example would be the card game Euchre. Because of how it’s pronounced, you may want to look under letter “Y” maybe for youker or youcker. Another example would be a homophone — two or more words pronounced the same, but having a different spelling and meaning. One could write the sentence, “I live at this residents.” But one is meaning to write, “I live at this residence.” Residents and residence sound the same, but have different meanings. The computer spell check would not alert you for that example because both words are spelled the same.

‘The Elements of Style’

By William Strunk

and E.B. White

Another book that should be in reaching distance is this one. This book is exactly as it title indicates. It will help you with style. If you need to know how to set up a list, it will show you, not tell you. I emphasize show because when you see and repeat, it’s easier to remember.

‘The MLA Handbook’

By The Modern Language

Association of America

If you are writing papers for an English class in any grade, this book is a must because it will show you how to format your paper, and how to cite sources. Some English instructors will deduct points from your overall grade if the format is not followed to the letter. No pun intended. If you don’t believe me, turn in a paper in an upper-level college English course without following any MLA rules and see what happens. You learn how to use it in high school and you are expected to use it in college.

‘The Longman Student Grammar

of Spoken and Written English’

Published by Pearson

Referred to as “The Longman” it has everything you may think of in terms of grammar.

So if you want to use the correct pronoun or you want to make sure your verb agrees with your subject, consult this book or another grammar book. I have found that writers tend to fall down with grammar. Writers get stuck on some grammatical aspect, and so they may stop their projects. There is also, I believe, “Grammar for Dummies” series available at bookstores either online or brick and mortar locations. This is an area that needs the most work because sentences can be written different ways. A way to avoid complication is to use simple sentences until you get comfortable with other kinds. Just remember a sentence needs a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb).

“The Associated Press Style Book”

By The Associated Press

If you are an aspiring journalist or you write news releases for you company or club, this book will give you the rules in which you need to follow. Most newspapers have many copies of this book for their reporters and copyeditors to use. It shows the style that a journalist should adhere to when writing stories. It gives information on how to choose datelines to different spellings used in journalism. For example the word advisor is spelled adviser. The letter o is replaced with the letter e. The word canceled is spelled with one letter l. Rookie reporters should have their noses buried in this book to learn the proper style. Also their publication may have its own style manual, and the reporters are responsible for learning that style as well.

“Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

The Zero Tolerance Approach

to Punctuation”

By Lynn Truss

This is a fun book and it shows a writer how to use punctuation correctly. The back cover has a hilarious story of which I will share with you here.

“A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

“A Writer’s Reference”

By Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers

If you only have funds for say one book, then invest in this one because it is a quick way of finding answers with punctuation, grammar, and citations for scholarly writing. It covers not only MLA, but APA and “The Chicago Manual Of Style.” Yes, there is more than just one style. APA stands for American Psychological Association, and its citations are different from MLA. So when you are writing in college for social science classes, and sometimes history classes, you will have to use APA style. Some instructors may want you to follow Chicago Style. Good news as the book has sample papers in each style, so you can see how to prepare a manuscript. This book is expensive, but the investment is worth it.

For scholarly writing you may want to consult all of the books, but for fiction writing, I would suggest “A Writer’s Reference,” a grammar book, and “The Elements of Style.” These books will help you write in a logical, coherent manner.

These reference guides are meant to be a help, so you should build using them in your writing routine. The more that you become familiar with these guides, the easier your writing task(s) may become.