Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Hm…I’ve read a couple of the other responses to this questions and was surprised to find quite a few people who aren’t interested in reference books in the least. Some people say the English language makes sense to them so they don’t need to look things up, while others prefer to look things up online.

The problem arises, though, when you are working with a specific writing style (MLA, Chicago, AP) that requires exact uses of certain words. For instance in AP Style “website” is actually “Web site” and it must be written exactly this way – because it’s actually proper English. The problem I have with using the Internet (another AP particularity) as a resource for spelling and punctuation is that it’s often written by laypeople who aren’t interested in looking up correct punctuation and spelling. Nor do they bother to wonder whether they are using the right word for what they are trying to say. Oh, and what about the constant misuse of “their, they’re and there” and “your, you’re”? With actual reference material, these mistakes are more easily avoided. Yes, these are simple mistakes that wordy people likely don’t make, but there are plenty of times when I see big vocab being misused.

As for me, I have a ton of reference books. I actually have more of these than of regular books because for me to actually buy a book I have to see a value in it. I have to either not be able to get it at the library OR I have to know that I’ll go back to it again and again and again. I own one English dictionary, at least two French-English dictionaries, one Italian-English dictionary, one Spanish-English dictionary, a German-French dictionary, several French grammar books, a French verb conjugation book, a German grammar book, at least two AP Style guides (the newspaper writer’s bible), an MLA style guide (left over from my college years), and an English thesaurus. I probably own more, but these are all I can think of at the moment.

In addition to these reference books, the question asks about writing guides. I actually only own one of these – a how-to guide for writing children’s books – and have never read it. However, I do have two books on hold at my public library about how to write, and I have several on my TBR list. The reason I don’t usually get into these books though is because they take time and effort. I can’t just say, “Hey, I think I’ll pick up that book on writing memoirs today,” and voila! a memoir is made. It’ll probably take me a good couple of months to get through these type of books because they include writing assignments and creativity. But I feel if I ever really want to be a writer, I’m going to have to figure out how to grow my creativity first. So, the books remain on my list, waiting out their time, hoping one day I’ll finally pick them up and let them be read.

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