Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WNW: Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips Book Review

As long-time readers know, this isn't a review blog. The only reviews I post are about books I have handpicked, and they're usually nonfiction titles I want to pass along to fellow readers and writers. I think the last book I reviewed was Mignon Fogarty's 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know.

Truth be told, shortly after that post, I meant to post a second review of another book by Fogarty (also known as Grammar Girl, from the podcast of the same name), but after reading the other book, I promptly misplaced it in one of those cases of "I'll keep it in a very safe place so I won't lose it" and, of course, I promptly forgot the safe place.

I didn't want to post a review without having the book beside me because, as I do with so many reference books, I wrote in the margins and wanted to be able to refer to my notes.

For this week's Word Nerd Wednesday, the first bit of good news is that the book is found and at my side! Hooray! Now we can discuss Grammar Girls' Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

The second piece of news is that I had a great time rereading my notes and then going over the passages they refer to, and I found the book as delightful as I did when I first read it a few years ago. I found stars, underlined passages, and smiley faces all over the place.

Best of all, the author and I share many of the same stylistic peeves, which made me like her even more. Seriously, I couldn't stop grinning over to try and versus to try to on page 45, something I rant talk about on page 90 of my own grammar book. Beside her discussion of another of my peeves, the weak there is/are way of beginning a sentence, on page 81, I'd written, "Yay!"

Grammar Girl is known for her conversational, accessible style, and this book is no exception. It's laid out in an easy-to-read format, with clear headers and fun examples, as well as text boxes with background and other additional information, often fun trivia related to language. (Yes, fun and language can exist in the same sentence.)

The book goes over many common problems in writing, from grammar to punctuation to style issues. She even discusses why the rule of two spaces after a period has changed in the computer era (page 85). (See this post for my explanation, which agrees entirely with her.)

The final chapter is short, and while it won't be one you turn to regularly to remember a rule, it's helpful for writers of all kinds. It talks about breaking through blocks, finding writing groups, revising, proofreading, and more.

At the end of the book, you'll find appendices with lists of commonly confused words and other great references.

I can't cover all of the great parts of a book with more than 200 pages, but here are a few highlights I particularly enjoyed:
  • Squinty modifiers. (Page 65.) Great name for an easy error to make with modifiers, with a clear explanation and a great example.
  • The semicolon splicer image to help remember how to use the mark (page 75).
  • Properly punctuating indirect questions. (Page 89.) I've seen this issue a lot in my editing work, and agree with Fogarty so entirely that in that margin, I wrote "For the love!" because people need to learn this!
  • How to properly use a colon. (Pages 92 to 96.) A much-needed explanation.
  • The Oxford comma. (She favors it! Woohoo!) 
  • The title of chapter six: "Prozac for Pronouns: Getting the Stuntmen of Language Under Control." (Page 139.) LOVE IT.
And this gem on page 96: "Using a hyphen in place of a dash can cause your copy editor to have a mild fit."

Amen and amen.

The book is a quick read, and it's one you'll want to keep on hand as a reference for a long time. 

My only complaint is tiny: A few things have changed since the book's publication in 2008, such as how long Facebook status updates can be. Like I said, very small things. Considering how fast technology changes, I'm impressed how on top of technology she is, and that I noted only a couple of spots where things are different in 2014. 

Get a copy for yourself and another for the writer in your life. (Hint: That's everyone in today's society. We all need to know how to write clearly.) Here's the link again to make it really easy for you. And if you haven't gotten my book, here's that link too.

Stay tuned for the announcement of two projects I'm working on with Luisa Perkins. We'll roll out the first one in a few weeks, and the second one a few weeks after that. 

You won't want to miss out on them! 

Coincidentally, right now, Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl) is raising money to fund an awesome card game called Peeve Wars. I've chipped in; I hope you will too. The campaign has just 10 days left to reach its goal. Learn more about Peeve Wars and donation rewards HERE. If you have personal grammar and usage peeves (and you know you do), you'll want this game.


Luisa Perkins said...

I must get the book. Grammar Girl ROCKS.

I'm SO excited about our SEEKRIT PROJECT!

Pat W Coffey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat W Coffey said...

Annette, Thanks for the review. I've seen the book several times and wondered if it was worth purchasing. What I like to know is she strictly looking at grammar in the year 2008 or is she mixing style guides?

Braden Bell said...

LOLing (can I say something so informal about a post dealing with grammar?) about the Prozac/Pronoun/Stuntmen chapter. I think I'll buy the book for that alone. Thanks for the recommendation!


Amazon's famous Prime Day events are huge for so many reasons, and for bookworms, it's even better: books aren't high-ticket ite...