Book Review: “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation”

By Mark Nichol

No one writing handbook or grammar guide should suffice for careful writers, and though Jane Straus’s The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is less comprehensive than some other resources, its large-format workbook approach provides a reader-friendly introduction to the intricacies of proper prose.

Straus was still a college student when she began her career as a writing consultant for the State of California, teaching good writing habits to state employees. When, during her preparation for leading the writing workshops, she found herself dissatisfied with the handbooks and workbooks available at the time, she took matters into her own hands and created what became The Blue Book.

Chapters on not just grammar but also punctuation, capitalization, numbers take readers briskly through basic writing skills. There’s also a chapter on confusing words, many of them explained by a synonym or a brief description but others discussed with sample sentences.

But the other half of the book consists of dozens of quizzes (and their answer keys). Most quizzes are specific — covering, for example, pronouns, lay versus lie, apostrophes, and capitalization — but there are also two general pretests and summary tests, one each for grammar and another for punctuation, capitalization, and numbers. Sometimes, the quizzes seem like overkill, but after you’ve completed not just one but two sixteen-item quizzes on affect versus effect, chances are that you’ll never confuse the two words again.

One benefit of the pairs of quizzes is that a tutor or teacher can use one as an oral quiz with students and assign the other as a written test. (Study partners can also quiz each other.)

You’ll be wise to supplement the lesson portions of this book with other handbooks I’ve mentioned and reviewed in other posts, but the wealth of diagnostic quizzes makes this book a valuable resource for English-language learners, students, and other novices, and might come in handy even for more experienced writers.

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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7 Responses to “Book Review: “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation””

  • Joan

    I read your writing tips everyday–wouldn’t miss them! A repeat of the grammar books you’ve recommended would be appreciated. I’m in the process of building a library of grammar books and writing manuals, and if you could also recommend some of those, it would be most appreciated.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I wrote someone today about the prefix “re”:
    Nearly all words with “re” do not have hyphens. Do not pay attention to British yoo-hoos. You can rerererepolish your yo-yos.

    In a classic LOONY TUNES cartoon, Duck Dodgers and his assistant (Porky Pig) wanted to fly to Planet X because that is the source of a vital substance needed for polishing yo-yos!
    LOL
    D.A.W.

    P.S. Do not use a hyphen with any of these {anti, bi, counter, demi, hemi, mid, mini, micro, mega, non, pre, semi, sub, super, ultra}, and several others.

    In particular, as an EE, I can tell you {very high, ultrahigh, superhigh, and extremely high} in reference to frequencies.
    Also, none of the prefixes in the Metric System is hyphenated:
    {megameter, kilometer, hectometer, decimeter, centimeter, millimeter, nanometer, picometer, nanofarad, millihenry, kilovolt} and so forth.

  • Robert Pinto

    Explain when to use ‘next’ or ‘coming’

    Which is correct?
    I will meet you next Sunday.
    or
    I will meet you coming Sunday.

  • Mark Nichol

    Joan:

    Thanks for your note! The site has a directory of book reviews and related posts.

  • Mark Nichol

    Robert:

    “Next Sunday” and “this coming Sunday” mean the same thing; the former is more formal, and the latter is idiomatic.

  • Ray

    Mark:
    re: Mr. Pinto:
    He actually wrote, “I will meet you coming Sunday.”.
    I have heard that usage many times. What do you have to say about that phrase?

    Ray….

  • Mark Nichol

    Ray:

    The implication of my neglect was that “I will meet you coming Sunday” (which I have not heard) is erroneous in formal writing. Apparently, it, too, is idiomatic, but I don’t recommend it, even in conversational prose.

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