on May 31, 2000
This is simply the best guide available for grammar, style, and usage. As a professional editor, I believe this reference is far superior to the Chicago manual or any other published guide to grammar and usage. It is clear, well-organized, and comprehensive. The index is tremendously helpful. The sole problem with Words Into Type is that it was published before we all started using computers, and therefore parts of the book dealing with the technical aspects of publishing are dated. Nevertheless, it remains the best grammar and usage text available. I use my copy almost daily. It is the most indispensable reference book on my shelf.
on April 7, 2004
This is a great style guide; however, it hasn't been updated to include technology and practice for even the late twentieth century! When talking computer technology, Words into Type talks about cathode ray tubes, for crying out loud. Having said all that, it is in many cases, much more user-friendly than the Chicago Manual of Style. Where Chicago can be vague or indecisive, Words is most helpful. Apart from the fact that Words really needs to be updated, it's an invaluable tool. Since it hasn't been updated since 1974, you'd be better offbuying a used copy than plunking down good dough for a text that's 30 years old.
on May 29, 2001
Anyone in the business of putting words onto paper has no need to read these reviews: He already knows that Words into Type is an indispensable companion in his craft.
In a headline, should both words in a hyphenated compound be capitalized? Words into Type lets you know. Does one acquiesce "to," "with," or "in" something? Words into Type has the answer. Should a noun before a gerund always be possessive? Words into Type is ready with reassuring guidance.
As this edition of Words into Type approaches the end of its third decade, portions of it may seem quaintly out of date. Other books can give you a more current account of the printing process, for example. But for matters of style--tables, footnotes, typography, copy editing, and much else besides--no other book gives better guidance than this underappreciated volume.
As an editor, my reference shelf is brimming with style guides, and Words into Type is the most dog-eared among them. A professional writer or editor would make do with nothing less.
on August 7, 2003
Granted, the most recent edition came out in 1974, but Words Into Type is still the reference I turn to first with grammar and usage questions. (For style, I keep the NY Times Manual of Style and Usage handy.) Unlike the Chicago Manual of Style, WIT has a usable index that must have been put together by a mind-reader. It's organized the way people think and usually anticipates the form my bewilderment will take: Does "what" take a plural or singular verb? The answer's under "what" in the index. Should I say "as if it was" or "as if it were"? Look under "If clauses." Is it different from or different than? The index leads me right to my answer. I wish the editors would come out with a new edition, but for now I'm loyal to the increasingly ancient Third.
on December 31, 1998
I've been a professional copyeditor on major national publications for 15 years, and I wouldn't be without this book. Since the new edition won't be out anytime soon, get this! Clear, informative, with an excellent index. Who cares about the Optima typeface? The information here is valuable.
Somebody who had read my review of Bryan A Garner's Modern American Usage, 2nd ed. (2003)--IMHO, the preeminent book on usage, per se--wrote me the other day asking about a good book on typographical style. I recommended Words into Type which I have used for many years. But as I prepared to write a review, I was amazed to learn that a new edition of this outstanding reference work is lacking.
What we have here is the Third Edition from 1974, the same book I have in front of me. Yet, so much has changed since 1974--including the invention and phenomenal growth of a little thing called the Internet--that a new and updated work is sorely needed. On the other hand, so much in terms of what is appropriate style in the publishing world has not changed, which means that this venerable and authoritative work remains a most valuable addition to anyone's library.
First, a note on "style" as used here and as understood in the publishing business. Style does not refer to what should more properly be called the writer's "mode of expression," nor does it refer to such things as elegance or flair in wordsmithing; and yet it does have something to do with "fashion" in terms of how words, numbers, and symbols appear on the pages of books, magazines, and newspapers. In this sense "style" refers to "the rules or customs of spelling, punctuation, and the like..." (from Random House Webster's College Dictionary).
Style should therefore be contrasted with and compared to usage and grammar. Indeed Words into Type includes in its pages plenty of advice on grammar and usage. Part V is devoted to "Use of Words" and Part VI to "Grammar." Still, most of the book is about how characters appear on pages and how pages should be laid out and how various sections of books--introductions, indices, appendices, footnotes, typographical style for tables and headings, etc.--should be ordered. Also included is guidance on the various responsibilities of writers, editors and copyreaders. To put it simply, I know of no book that gives anywhere near as much guidance on how words are transformed into type than this very appropriately named, Words into Type.
I have by way of comparison in front of me a copy of my old The Associated Press Stylebook, which I used when I was a newspaper reporter years ago. The AP stylebook tells us which words to capitalize for example and which words to leave lower case. It covers abbreviations, punctuation, whether numbers should be spelled out or not, conventions to follow in the reporting of sports, and various other matters related strictly to newspaper reporting.
Words into Type does all this and, as indicated above, much, much more. The AP stylebook is fifty-some pages long; Words into Type is nearly six hundred. I do not have the Chicago Manual of Style in front of me, but it is the only book that I know of that can compete with Words into Type in terms of inclusiveness. Perhaps it is a better book today. But when I compared them some years ago it wasn't even close. Words into Type was more comprehensive while being at the same time easier to use and understand. Still the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is from 2003.
Publishers, even if they use the Chicago Manual of Style, should have a copy of Words into Type at the ready. And any writer who wants to look professional and furthermore wants to understand the process of turning words into type--and indeed would like an education in "style"--should also own this book. With self-publishing and Web-based publishing growing by leaps and bounds everyday, I think it would be a good idea to update this book.
Maybe the people at Prentice-Hall or whoever now owns the copyright are working on such an edition. I hope so. Until such an edition or its equivalent comes out, I cannot recommend this book too highly as indispensable to serious writers, editors and publishers.
on March 16, 2004
With a string of successful novels to my credit, thirty-plus students who have had books published, and as the head of a technical writing department, I can say that this is the most valuable style guide one can own. With this near-perfect book, Garner's Modern American Usage, and an unabridged dictionary, a writer has the necessary resources to answer for all but the most obscure writing questions.
Words Into Type is useful beyond all these rave reviews, and it doesn't go out of style. It's just the best. Period.
on July 21, 2002
I've used Words Into Type for eight years and consider it my number-one go-to book if I need to document ANY grammatical issue. It's almost as old as I am, but it seems to be ageless; you'd never know it was pushing 30! There are no cute examples that would tie it to a certain time.
Although not style-specific, this book is more aligned with Chicago than with AP but is a useful accompaniment to either. It is logically arranged, well indexed, and easy to fill up with flags and highlights.
I don't know any editor who wouldn't agree that this is a must-have.
on January 14, 2003
Never failed to win me the argument over style or usage. Recommendations are clear and logical; moreover, they stand the test of time. I used to read the text -- particularly the grammar -- for lunch at my desk. The examples would conjure up stories in my head, almost as good as a vacation. I must have bought my copy 30 years ago when this edition first came out; still use it fondly. I am very pleased it is still in print and that others will be able to benefit from its sound advice.