About The Joy of English
View My Portfolio

THE BEST BOOKS ON ENGLISH: STYLE GUIDES


Style guides are quite thin on the ground, yet they are incredibly useful. In Britain, most common book of English usage in Britain is Fowler's (right). The problem with Fowler's is that it is not very up to date. Chances are, you would not even be on this website right now if Fowler's met all your needs. Don't get me wrong, Fowler's does have its usefulness (read review) but it will become less relevant with age unless it is given a modern revision (and the 2004 version is a beast best not carried far from the desk). Into this void come style guides.

Style guides are more immediate, tend to be slimmer and more user-friendly than usage guides because they get to the point without necessarily forcing you to wade through columns of heavy grammar. Style guides also avoid the blunt condemnation of usage guides, instead offering you helpful advice and warning you of common "mistakes". The final thing that sets Style Guides apart from usage guides is that they also are often released under the brand of established publishers. Essentially, Style Guides are based on the "house style" of the publisher in question, on the basis that what they themselves publish somehow sets a good example of "good English".

THE BEST BOOKS ON ENGLISH: STYLE GUIDES

Fowler's Modern English usage (re-revised edition)
This is the bread and butter book of choice in the UK. Beware older versions (missing 'modern' in the title) is this book, which aren't easy to digest as the re-worked editions. Read the review.

The "Guardian" Stylebookhttp://www.assoc-amazon.co.uk/e/ir?t=britishdictio-21&l=as2&o=2&a=0852650868
The Guardian newspaper's last stylebook came out in 2004 and is no longer available new (that I can find), but thankfully plans are afoot to release the 2007 stylebook. Watch this space for the review.

The Economist style guide
The Economist 'newspaper' has been on the up since the mid-1980s, and their style guide has established itself well in the market for modern authorities on English language. Read the review.

The Oxford style manual
This beast of a book is the result of merging two books into one and putting together a fully comprehensive book of the type Fowler's could/should be. Calling it a Style Guide is misnomer in many ways, it is much more valuable and works as a powerful reference tool. Read the review.

The Times Style and Usage Guide
This book was revised in 2003 after an 11-year run of the Guide to English style and usage. It provides many great insights into correct capitalisation and English pitfalls. Read the review.

Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style
For the more specific writer wanting advice on technical and scientific usage, this book fits the bill. In addition to scientific symbols and using mathematical terms, it also covers techincal production areas such as typesetting, layout, referencing and visual composition. Read the review.