Remember those grammar and style and word usage reference guides that you learned about way back in school? The ones that gave you all the “rules” and made your writing appropriately formal and pedantic — IF you happened to be writing a school term paper, or for a solemn professional journal or such. A lot of the old standard writing guides are out of date (yes, our language does change) or just not as applicable for informal fiction writing. But not to despair of having someplace to look up those thorny punctuation or verb tense problems, or figure out which word you really mean! There are lots of modern and FUN guides available now.
Of course, the standard and best reference is Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS). Be sure you are using the most recent version (16th edition), a lot of things have evolved.
But on to the entertaining but just as helpful ones:
1. Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness (A Dictionarrative) – Karen Elizabeth Gordon
2. Torn Wings and Faux Pas (A Flashbook of Style, a Beastly Guide Through the Writer’s Labyrinth) – Karen Elizabeth Gordon
3. The Well-Tempered Sentence (A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed) – Karen Elizabeth Gordon
4. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English – Patricia T. O’Conner
5. Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions – Harry Shaw
6. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – Lynne Truss
(And for extra fun, get the children’s picture book version by Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons, and “Eats, Shites & Leaves: Crap English and How to Use It” by A. Parody.)
7. Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins (The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage) – Theodore M. Bernstein
8. Sleeping Dogs Don’t Lay: Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged – Richard Lederer & Richard Dowis
9. Word Court – Barbara Wallraff
10. Lapsing Into a Comma (A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print — and How to Avoid Them) – Bill Walsh
11. Grammar Gremlins (Taming the Mischief-Makers of the English Language) – Don K. Ferguson
12. The World of Language series of children’s books by Ruth Heller. Yes, children’s books, but clear and concise — and beautifully illustrated. Merry-Go-Round (nouns), A Cache of Jewels (collective nouns), Kites Sail High (verbs), Many Luscious Lollipops (adjectives), Up, Up and Away (adverbs), Behind the Mask (prepositions) and more.