What’s on my desk? Top five resources for editors and proofreaders

Hello again. For June’s blog post, here’s a look at some of the tools I use in my day-to-day life as an editor and proofreader. If you’re starting out in this career, these might be worth investing in!

1. Hart’s Rules

New Hart’s Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors is an essential book for editors and proofreaders, and most UK publishers use it as the basis of their style guide. It sets out such things as what order the parts of a book go in (a Dedication comes before a Foreword, for example), and rules on capitalisation, hyphenation, italics and quote marks (for example, a song title should be displayed in quotes while an album title is in italics). I refer to my copy a lot!

2. The Penguin Guide to Punctuation

Although Hart’s Rules does have a section on punctuation, this is more comprehensive and is very handy for those situations when you know that a comma shouldn’t go there, but you can’t explain why. (I’ve attended several ‘brush up on your grammar’ courses during my career and would say that my grip on grammar is pretty strong – but it’s always good to have a refresher at hand.)

3. MUJI pens

All proofreaders know the value of good pens – we use red for typesetter errors, blue for editorial errors. There’s nothing worse than a leaky biro smudging all over your proofs, and a proofreader needs to be able to write neatly, sometimes in very limited space. I have decided that MUJI’s 0.38 or 0.5 gel ink pens are the perfect pen, as the nibs are so fine and they don’t smudge at all.

4. Oxford Dictionaries online

OK, this one is slightly cheating as it’s not physically on my desk. But the advantages of the web version of the Oxford Dictionary are many: it doesn’t take up any space; it includes US and UK English (as well as many other languages); it is updated when new words are added, or when new spellings of words are accepted (when e-mail became email, for example). That said, it doesn’t always manage to keep up with modern times, so I like to supplement it with the BuzzFeed Style Guide, which provides guidance on terms such as ‘Disney Princess’ (for the brand/line of characters) and ‘Disney princess’ (when referring to a specific character from a Disney film). Fantastic author Sophie Ranald was actually the one who introduced me to the Buzzfeed guide, so thank you, Sophie!

5. A good planner / calendar / diary

As a freelancer, I need to keep on top of my schedule and know when I’m free to take on new work, so a planner is essential. Luckily I love pretty stationary, and my local Paperchase keeps me well equipped.

Next month: Top five tips for writing your synopsis