I like to think that my grammar and spelling are pretty sharp. You won't catch me getting their, there and they're mixed up. I know when to hyphenate. And I never leave a preposition hanging if it's something which I can avoid.
But I do have a few blind spots. Practice and practise have been catching me out lately; I know instinctively which is right but if I think about it for more than a few seconds I'm suddenly unsure. So it's really handy to have a few reliable guides to spelling, grammar and good copywriting to hand. Not just to check up on these niggling areas but for inspiration too.
Here are some of the books I like to keep within reach.
Chambers English Dictionary There's something very reassuring about having a big fat dictionary on your desk, and this has been on mine since I was doing my A Levels.
Collins Gem English Grammar This little pocket-sized guide offers lots of very simple explanations to lots of tricky aspects of grammar. Fits in your pocket, so you can carry it with you everywhere and loudly correct people on public transport. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Guardian Style Guide This makes an excellent accompaniment to the more strait-laced grammar guide, as it focuses on the way we actually write and speak. Should you capitalise champagne? What's the difference between goths and Goths? And should you use clichés like 'every parent's nightmare'? (Nope). I just used it to double check whether it's straight-laced, strait-laced, hyphen or no hyphen.
Harold Evans, Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers I love this book. First printed in 1972 and originally aimed at journalists and other members of the press it features loads of useful advice you can apply when writing for the web and social media. The section on writing headlines is particularly useful: "The verb is the secret of the active headline...if the verb is weak the headline is weak."
Andy Maslen, Write To Sell: The Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting This was in the goodie bag from some conference or other and is a really handy guide if you're just starting out as a copywriter. Have recommended it several times.
How about you? Would love to hear from other writers and editors about your essential reference books. Any excuse to go book shopping!