The Writer's Bible
by Cherie Tucker
People always ask me for the name of a good reference book. The
very best one for information on the basics and ease of use is
The Gregg Reference Manual by the late William A. Sabin. Lots
of people say they have Strunk & White’s Elements of Style or
the Chicago Manual of Style, and those are both excellent.
However, they are style manuals, and that word presumes that
the reader has some knowledge of the basics. If grammar and usage
are your things, then those kinds of books will serve you well.
However, if you are not a grammar nerd, you need something that
will let you find what you’re looking for even if you don’t know
what it’s called, and that’s the Gregg. Its Index is extremely
For example, years ago the Pacific Science Center called me and
needed to know the plural of Ms. They had a letter from two women
and wanted to write back with a single salutation line. I had never
thought about the plural of Ms., but went to the Index of the Gregg
and looked under “salutations” and then “courtesy titles.” I found
it in both places. Had I gone to the Index with exactly what I was
looking for, however, and looked under “Plurals personal titles” I
would have found it instantly. By the way, the plural is Mses. or
Mss., but the latter is also the plural of manuscripts, so I never
use that one.
There are other useful things in the Gregg besides grammar and
usage. There is a whole section on titles, professional, military,
religious, etc., and how to address people with those titles. There
is a section on how to address an invitation to a married couple
with different last names, a married couple if one has a title and
the other doesn’t, and even an unmarried couple (gasp) living
together. There is a terrific section on Usage that will tell you
that the difference between “anxious” and “eager” is fear and that
“one seeks a consensus (NOT: a consensus of
opinion).” There is a section on Tables and one on Rules for
Alphabetical Filing, as well as one on Notes and Bibliographies.
It is the easiest, most complete resource guide I have found. Go to
the bookstore and check it out. The Eleventh Edition is now in,
called the Tribute Edition for my late friend. The Tenth Edition is
still for sale as well. The main difference between the two is in
the area of technology, which insists on changing at lightning
I think you’ll find it’s what you mean when you say you need a good
reference book. This one is the best.
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to
professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.
She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the
University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits