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Writing Resources for Mystery Shoppers

I have received several requests for books that I consider useful for a mystery shopper. The following is my somewhat eclectic list…

The Associate Press Style Manual and Libel Handbook. This book is now printed in two volumes, AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, and AP Guide to Punctuation. I use the style manual as the “official” guide for Mystery Shopper Magazine. I also use it on my shops if I come up with a narrative or punctuation question.

Any good Thesaurus. A Thesaurus is a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. I find it useful for those reports where I’m coming up short in character count and need a different word for “clean” or “friendly”. Thesaurus’s are basically laid out in two different ways; either in dictionary form, or as Roget did with his first one. Words were given a number, you looked at the number of the word you wanted, then went to that number to find the synonyms and antonyms. For example, instead of, “The salesperson was friendly,” could they have been amiable, genial, companionable, outgoing, or amicable? And that barely scratched the surface for “friendly”.

“Buckley: The Right Word” by William F. Buckley, Jr. I’ve been fascinated by Buckley’s command of the English language, especially since English was his third language [Spanish and French being 1 & 2 respectively]. In his novel, “Saving the Queen”, the protagonist, Blackford Oakes, takes four pages to cross an average size room. But, at the end of those four pages, you could close your eyes and see every detail of the room.

“On Writing” by Stephen King. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer. “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it–fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. Even nonfiction writers can benefit from this small volume.

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss. This is probably one of the best punctuation guides around.

While I haven’t edited for any MSCs, I do proofread blogs for several friends and what stands out most to me are the inconsistencies, whether it’s in the use of punctuation, capitalization, or spelling. I would therefore offer as my best advice, that, if you’re not sure and can’t receive or research the proper use of whatever it is before your report is due, at least be consistent.

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