These are some of the things we editors keep close at hand, whether on our bookshelves or our computer screens:
- Our Author Guide – duh! Did you know that we use short-form footnotes throughout a book? No more of those long-form initial notes.
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (also online with purchase of hardcopy; abridged version is free to all!) – this is our go-to dictionary for questions of spelling. Did you know that vegie is an acceptable alternative to veggie?
- The Chicago Manual of Style 15th and now 16th eds. – our house style is a revised version of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). We look to CMOS for help with those things not covered in our author guide. Did you know there are at least 4 ways to list reprints in bibliographies? Also, did you know CMOS suggests using apostrophe s for all singular possessives, even those ending in s? So, Jesus’s and Moses’s.
- The SBL Handbook of Style (if you are an SBL member the book is available online for free. There is also a student supplement available online for free) – for issues peculiar to biblical studies and not covered in CMOS, we turn to the SBL Handbook. This book is very helpful for abbreviations of scholarly journals and references, as well as abbreviations for ancient sources. It’s also our arbiter of transliteration questions. Did you know biblical and apocryphal books do not use a period with their abbreviations, but pseudepigraphical, rabbinical, and other ancient sources do? So, Dan (Daniel), but Apoc. Dan. (Apocalypse of Daniel).
- The Word Book III – we don’t refer to this that often, but it serves well as a spellcheck backup. And when we check for how a word should break across lines, the Word Book tells us how to do it properly.
- Garner’s Modern American Usage – Garner is actually quite fun to read. He is witty and makes grammar, usage, and style delightful. See his entry for Sesquipedality, which “is the use of big words, literally those that are ‘a foot and a half’ long.” He concludes that there are three legitimate stances for a writer and his/her word usage: 1) if you truly want to communicate, then “build your core of small words”; 2) if you also want to educate, then “use challenging words while allowing the context to reveal their meanings”; and 3) if you are writing for a particular audience with a prodigious vocabulary, then “use hard words that are truly unsimplifiable. But question your motives: are you doing it to express yourself, or are you just showing off?”
- Google Books – this resource helps in several ways. If we need to check a quotation, doing a search for the quotation will often find the actual source of the quote or a previous book with the quote in it. If we are having a hard time verifying the bibliographic information of an obscure article or book, a search will often point to a previous publication’s bibliography with the information, or on the rare occasion to the actual source in question. We use Google Books to complete bibliographic information all the time.
- WorldCat – with information from thousands of libraries worldwide, WorldCat is a great place to check for missing bibliographic information. Is the book in a series? What is the publication location? Are their other editions?
- Library of Congress – the Library of Congress (LOC) website is helpful when constructing the Catalging-in-Publication Data (CIP). For example, did you know that although Ben Witherington publishes with Ben Witherington III on the cover of most of his books, the Library of Congress catalogs him as Witherington, Ben, 1951–, and so this is what we put in the CIP section of the copyright page of the books he publishes with us? We also use LOC to help with the cataloging subjects and call numbers. Authors often ask that we list subjects that we are unable to list because they are not a part of the LOC system. The information we put in the CIP section is supposed to be helpful to libraries. We find that librarians, however, have their own opinions about what subjects and call numbers ought to be assigned to books.
- Most of us editors have access to institutional online databases by virtue of the fact that we are alumni. For instance, I often use databases available to me through Fuller Theological Seminary’s library in order to track down sources and bibliographic information.
- We also consult institutions’ online catalogs for book information. For instance, Harvard’s online catalog is a favorite because it’s old and extensive.
An author’s familiarity and use of these tools, especially those that provide bibliographic information, would make our lives a lot easier. There is little that is more exhausting than spending hours cleaning up the lengthy bibliography of an academic monograph.