7 British English Writing Resources

By Mark Nichol

This site is intended primarily for writers of American English, though much of the information is also applicable to people who write English in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. However, I recently received a request for recommendations about writing and editing guides that focus on British English. Here are seven authoritative volumes, all originating at either of England’s two most renowned universities, to help them.

1. Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors, and Proofreaders
As the title and subtitle indicate, this volume is directed more toward the editorial process than the writing stage, with guidance about production issues, including dealing with technology.

2. Cambridge Grammar of English: A Comprehensive Guide
Oxford University, which owns the rest of this list, has an equivalent book, Oxford Modern English Grammar. Both texts emphasize descriptive, not prescriptive, grammar and include some discussions of American English

3. New Hart’s Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors
The British English equivalent of The Chicago Manual of Style is the preeminent resource for resolving style issues such as hyphenation and punctuation, formatting for bibliographies, indexes, and notes, and usage (both British English and American English).

4. New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors: The Essential A–Z Guide to the Written Word
This usage handbook has extended entries for many words, including proper nouns, and provides guidance about spelling, capitalization, and hyphenation and information about cultural or historical significance.

5. New Oxford Spelling Dictionary: The Writers’ and Editors’ Guide to Spelling and Word Division
This companion to the volume mentioned in the previous item is a simple spelling and word-break guide.

6. New Oxford Style Manual
This volume is a compilation of New Hart’s Rules and the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors

7. Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation
This alphabetically organized guide discusses parts of speech and particular words, including questions of usage.

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3 Responses to “7 British English Writing Resources”

  • Marie

    This is very useful. Thanks. I would also point out that Canadian English is different from U.S English. It often follows British spelling rules but there are differences and Canadian punctuation is often more similar to our neighbours in the south.

  • Sally

    You forgot the ultimate reference book – the Oxford English Dictionary!

    And as Marie points out, each country where English is (one of) the first language(s) has its own dictionaries and “Style Guides.”

  • dragonwielder

    Aha! This is just what I’ve been looking for! Thanks, Mark! 🙂

    Last year at work I started on a project that essentially “translated” about half of our articles and other content into Canadian and British English. It’s been interesting figuring out how to write for non-American audiences!

    @Sally – I’ve been considering taking out a subscription to the OED, since I can’t access it anymore from my alma mater. It is one of my favorite resources!

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