Sunday, February 17, 2019

For the Grammar Nerds Among Us

A look at the book cover will give you a hint of the light-hearted (oops,  make that lighthearted) nature of this quite serious guide to usage and style.  I dashed through it -- enjoying every quirky footnote and each off the wall parenthetical expression -- and, coincidentally, learning a great deal about this respected copy editor's approach to our changing language.

The book is bursting with information on punctuation, grammar, word usage (toe or tow the line? blond or blonde?), and even the correct spelling of troublesome proper nouns. "Nikita Khrushchev- Soviet shoe-banger. You'd think that people would always look up a tricky name like Khrushchev. You'd be wrong."

I've always recommended Strunk & White's Elements of Style to my students but I'm going to have to add this to my list. It's an up-to-date and much expanded take on the same subject. 

Anyone (well, not anyone -- the book deals with American usage) who hopes to write for publication would do well to read Dreyer. And anyone with a touch of the grammar nerd in them (yes, them is correct now, replacing the unlovely him or her or the patriarchal he) would probably chortle their (also correct) way through this Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

As Amy Bloom says in her enthusiastic blurb, "If Oscar Wilde had wanted to be helpful as well as brilliant, if E. B. White and Noel Coward had had a wonderful little boy who grew up to cherish and model clarity, the result would be Benjamin Dreyer and his frankly perfect book."

The downside of all this knowledge is to make me painfully aware of my own shortcomings. For example, the name Noel in the above paragraph (and this one too, drat it) should have a diaeresis (two little dots -- called an umlaut in Germanic languages but properly a diaeresis* in English) above the e. I haven't a clue as to how to make that happen in Blogger. 

But really, this is a terrific, useful, and most entertaining book. Highly recommended!

*There are other spellings -- Spellcheck doesn't like this one but it's the one Dreyer uses so there you go.


Thérèse said...

Thank you for this bokk presentation, very useful (for me) ;-)

Anvilcloud said...

We still have a fun grammar book somewhere in the house: Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It was British in orientation, but I quite liked it.

Vicki Lane said...

I loved that too, AC -- though, being British-oriented, it wasn't as useful to me. But it was great fun to read.

Cyranetta said...

I really enjoyed Karen Gordon's The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and am glad for the Dreyer reocmmendation.