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What is your favorite grammar book?
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Monday, July 30, 2012 10:56 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Is there a grammar book that you're particularly enamored of? Are you a fan of the classic Elements of Style or do you prefer reference books that take a more modern (and fun) approach such as Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing?
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 8:29 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

I like Elements of Style because it's brief and witty as well as useful.   I also have (and enjoy prowling through) Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2nd edition, revised and edited by Gowers..   Not modern anymore, but a great book for giving the background of usage, and helping me make decisions when I'm uncertain.  Discussion of metaphors and how they can go wrong is especially useful to writers, IMO.  Fatter, more detailed, than Elements of Style, it's a book to be browsed through, considered, even argued with (but Fowler usually wins.)  The Chicago Manual of Style is a good one to have around as well, though again it's very US-specific.  Still, invaluable for marking manuscripts and conforming to US usage (which, she mutters, should not be rigidly applied to fiction, especially dialogue.)

Since most of my stuff's set in either an invented past or invented future, I'm not concerned with conforming everything to contemporary US usage--it's distinct enough to suggest a setting (place and time) that I don't want anyway.

Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 10:28 PM
This is going to sound silly, but I still have copies of my 12th grade grammar book. The poor thing will be 26 years old in a couple of weeks. After graduation, I wrapped it in clear contact paper, so it's held together well. It's called Basic English Revisited: A Student Handbook, written by Patrick Sebranek and Verne Meyer.

This is the book that taught me that if I could replace "impact" with "affect", I should use "affect". There's a section on map-reading, how to use a card catalog, proper use of a thesaurus, reading and study skills (which I used a lot when I was first starting out in college), American Sign Language, the zodiac, common US street signs ...and so so much more.

It comes in handy for a lot of things, and I still take it out now and again to brush up on stuff.

You can find used hardback and paperback copies on Amazon for under $10.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 12:57 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

I find Patricia O'Conner's Woe is I to be both useful and entertaining.  Not, perhaps, as useful for rigorous line edits but full of good, commonsense tips.  It's a fun read, too.

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 1:34 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Elizabeth & MariAdkins, thanks for the input! I also like reading why people favor certain books over others--very interesting. 

Atthys, I'm actually reading Woe is I right now! I completely agree that it's a fun and useful book but not exactly the quintessential grammar book for copy editors. Oh well.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 6:33 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Nevena.  I had never heard of it until my daughter had to get it for her high school English course.  She, naturally, considered it a chore and a bore, but I enjoyed it.   I'm also a fan of Grammar Girl, and often find myself nipping over to her site to resolve some geeky but vital question about proper usage.  
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 11:13 PM
There's an updated, online version of Elements of Style here: http://home.ccil.org/~cowan/style-revised.html

Sneaky Burrito
Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 1:29 PM
Joined: 5/28/2012
Posts: 43

I don't actually own a grammar book.  If something I need to know isn't in my head and my MacBook Pro's dictionary app doesn't have the answer, I sometimes visit (reputable) websites.  In rare instances I might call or e-mail my boyfriend, as he has a copy of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language -- I'm not willing to shell out $200+ for it myself, but I have had occasion to consult it.

I have a good head for grammar, though.  (Don't use my posts in these forums as a guide...)  I will, however, bookmark Jay's link, just in case.

Andrea Matthews
Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 7:07 PM
Joined: 6/8/2013
Posts: 25

The grammar book that I love is just on punctuation. It's called Eats, Shoots and Leaves.The title alone made me want to read it.  It's fun and informative and helps explain where those pesky commas, colons, semi-colons, etc. are permissible and where they are not.   

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 9:56 AM
Elements of Style remains the old standby. Recently I obtained a copy of The Accidents of Style by Charles Harrington Elster and subtitled Good Advice On How Not To Write Badly. Reading the classics is an excellent way to learn how to write. Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned from reading the classic writers is how to not let writing to garner A's from your English teacher get in the way of your creativity.
Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:32 PM
Joined: 2/21/2013
Posts: 40

The Elements of Style, Fowler's Modern English Usage as well as his The King's English. All could be viewed as dated but they are a wonderful bedrock to rely on.  (Remember: You have to know the rules before you can break them.) I find White and Strunk to be the most precise and concise (my watchwords in writing)--a wonderful tool, and my Bible both as an editor and as a writer!

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