Scholarly Resources for CompSci Undergrads

My favourite references about writing

I don't claim to be a great writer of any kind, but I try to be clear. I have used many style guides and books of advice. Some are good, a few are great. Some are downright awful. This is a brief list of the most helpful books I have found.

Books about programming are elsewhere. I also have a list of literary books I greatly enjoy.

J. Blustein (

Desk References


I use the Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary because it is small enough to keep near me but has most of the words I want to look up. It also has some maps and charts but I hardly ever look at them. I have the OED online and the Shorter at home, so I don't need to have everything on my desk. I think the unabridged Random House Dictionary is good too, but I haven't spent much time with it.


There are some awful ones out there. I own one particularly bad one. There are however two that I like.

The Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words & Phrases (prepared by Betty Kirkpatrick and published by Longman in 1987) is the two-way index style. I like it so much that I have two -- one for home and one for my office. If you prefer a dictionary style then Rodale's Synonym Finder might be for you.


For spelling I use either the 1986 or the 1990 edition of The Oxford Minidictionary of Spelling and Word-Division, depending on where I am.

Style Guides

Word Choice

Is there anyone who doesn't consult Fowler's Modern English Usage (Second edition revised by Sir Ernest Gowers)? I use other sources too of course, but never first. Even years after it was first published the advice is still sensible without dictating.


Except for the section about quotations, I follow The Canadian Oxford Guide to Writing: a Rhetoric and Handbook by Thomas S. Kane and Karen C. Ogden (published by Oxford University Press Canada in 1993). Otherwise I follow the brief Principles of Punctuation by E. S. C. Weiner which Oxford Press has published in many collections.

Writing Style

I own both Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (Third edition, with index!) and Thomas S. Kane and Karen C. Ogden's The Canadian Oxford Guide to Writing: a Rhetoric and Handbook but I don't use them much. You're probably thinking that I should.


Being in computer science, I naturally use Mary-Claire van Leunen's A Handbook for Scholars (Revised edition), published by Oxford University Press, 1992. I supplement her huge section on citation with adaptation of Xia Li and Nancy B. Crane's Electronic Style: A Guide to Citing Electronic Information, published by Meckler in 1993.

If you found this interesting then you will probably be thrilled by my list of resources for undergraduate students. This document is copyright by its author, J. Blustein.

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