Nonfiction Monday: An Editor’s Essential Tools

Editing children’s nonfiction is a little like being in school: I’m constantly learning something new, whether it’s the history of football or the gestation period of a giraffe. But no matter the subject, the following resources have always served me well.

useful books 2 The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary,11th edition are the two books I can’t imagine not having. Together, they handle my questions about spelling, usage, hyphenation, bibliographies, source notes, indexing, and so much more.

useful books 1 The Children’s Writer’s Word Book is something I’d consider a must-have for all children’s writers. It has a section where you can look up a word’s grade level and also see synonyms for that word with their grade levels. And the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary is great when the grown-up dictionary has a definition that’s way too abstract or difficult for kids and you’re trying to explain a concept in simple terms.

Nearly as useful are Web Geo and Web Bio. The former helps me when I need to know exactly where the Sierra Nevada end and the Cascades begin or the length of the Missouri River. The latter tells me the preferred spelling for the name of Aztec emperor (or tlatoani) Montezuma II as well the dates of his birth and death.

Given that this is the Internet age, of course I also have some favorite websites. is great for metric conversions as well as more unusual conversions, such as how many feet are in a fathom. I rely on when I’m working on pronunciation guides because I can listen to the words being spoken. When editing rhyming verse, I find RhymeZone helpful. Rhyming verse in nonfiction books? Oh yes, Brian P. Cleary, Trudy Harris, and Bob Raczka make sure I always get my yearly dose of rhyming.

gum and pen When I’m editing, I also find a purple pen and a pack of minty gum (any brand will do) to be terribly beneficial, but that might just be me.chocolate And in case of a true editorial crisis, dark chocolate has never failed me yet.

What are your favorite children’s book-related resources?

**Check out the the rest of the Nonfiction Monday posts for this week at Wrapped in Foil.

2 thoughts on “Nonfiction Monday: An Editor’s Essential Tools

  1. Sally

    This is very helpful and interesting. I never knew there was a Children's Writer's Word Book.

    It's helpful to have a dictionary for young readers on hand. Makes simplifying a complicated definition a much easier chore.

    I like the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus. The language isn't geared toward kids, but it stimulates my thoughts with snippets from great writers. It goes without saying that Roget's sits right next to my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Both were college graduation gifts and are held together with duct tape.

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