Books on language for writers, proofreaders, translators and editors

One of the reasons I work with words is that language is endlessly fascinating. From my degree in French to the podcasts I listen to and the books I read about the English language, there is always more to know.

As a writer and proofreader, I rely on some of the books listed below for my work. But as a linguist, I read the rest for fun.

The links below are for Amazon. If you would prefer to support independent bookshops, try Hive Books or in the UK or Bookshop or IndieBound in the USA. For people in other countries, a quick Google should help you to find an independent alternative.

Books about proofreading

It’s an art and a science and a business

McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook by Laura Killen Anderson

The Pocket Book of Proofreading: A guide to freelance proofreading & copy-editing by William Critchley

Reliable, trustworthy references like dictionaries and style guides

These are the books that sit on your desk to refer to whenever you have a question.


Oxford English Dictionary

The Chambers Dictionary: The English dictionary of choice for writers, crossword setters and word lovers

Oxford Modern English Grammar by Bas Aarts

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

Oxford Thesaurus of English

The Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R. L. Trask

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. White

Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely

The Economist Style Guide by The Economist and Ann Wroe

The Times Style Guide: A Guide to English Usage by Brunskill

Guardian Style by Amelia Hodsdon and David Marsh (Guardian)

A Very Sweary Dictionary: From abso-f**king-lutely to w**kstain: an essential, if somewhat impolite, style guide by Kia Thomas

The Great Book of American Idioms: A Dictionary of American Idioms, Sayings, Expressions & Phrases by Lingo Mastery

More informal books about writing, grammar and the English language

These are the books that contain great information that’s presented in a more informal way.

Word Perfect: Etymological Entertainment For Every Day of the Year by Susie Dent

Woman with a book
Woman with a book

Because Internet: Understanding how language is changing by Gretchen McCulloch

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Have You Eaten Grandma? by Gyles Brandreth

First You Write a Sentence.: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life by Joe Moran

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Grammar: Know Your Shit or Know You’re Shit by Joanne Adams

My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be ‘Me’?): Old-School Ways to Sharpen Your English by Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines

Grammar for Grown-ups: Everything you need to know but never learnt in school by Craig Shrives

A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Collective Nouns by Matt Sewell

Word Nerd by Michael Powell

Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar by David Crystal

Spell It Out: The singular story of English spelling by David Crystal

Making a Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation by David Crystal

(You might also like Twenty-seven essential books to boost a writer’s creativity.)

If you make a purchase via these links, I may get a few pennies as a thank you for referring you.