Book Review: “Garner’s Modern American Usage”

What is the state of writing today? Pick up any newspaper, magazine, or book, or look at a website, an email message, or a tweet, or examine a newsletter, a brochure, or a report. Want a more useful indicator of how particular words are used? Look them up in a new dictionary. But these strategies … Read more

Book Review: “On Writing Well”

Go to any bookstore — whether bricks and mortar or click-and-order — and you will, in the quest for a book about how to write, be subjected to a bewildering array of possibilities. Your budgets (financial and chronological) limit you to one volume, because you want to actually, you know, start writing in this lifetime, … Read more

Book Review: “Woe Is I”

Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (link to the book on Amazon) sells itself to its target audience with that big word in the subtitle — this book is gentle on the reader — but more confident writers and editors who might just need to look … Read more

Review: The Chicago Manual of Style

This is the first in what will be a series of roughly monthly reviews of books relevant to writing and editing. The Chicago Manual of Style, born in 1906 as a house style guide for the University of Chicago Press, has made great strides over the past century, especially since it hit puberty with the … Read more

4 Types of Reference Books You Didn’t Know You Need

OK, it’s time to conduct an inventory of your reference library to ensure that you have a comprehensive collection at hand. Dictionary? Check. Thesaurus? Mm-hmm. Compendium of famous quotations? Right. Visual dictionary? (Silence.) You’re telling me you don’t have a visual dictionary? Before you get too self-conscious, I’ll let you off the hook: You don’t … Read more

Books About Writing

I figured that it would be useful to have a page on the blog dedicated to books about writing. This initial list was created taking into consideration the books that our writers reviewed or recommended in the past. We plan to update it regularly as well. If you have a suggestion just write a comment … Read more

Three Fairly New British Language References

Motivated by the lively debates about where to put commas, and the controversy over “gone missing,” I’ve added some up-to-date British references to my print reference library. The three newcomers to my shelves are: Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar by R. L. Trask, 2000. As the title implies, this guide arranges topics and terms in … Read more

MLA Gets With the Times

Probably the biggest change in the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers has to do with the Works Cited section. No more underliningI abandoned underlining for italicizing as soon as I got my hands on my first computer. That was in the 1980s. MLA has finally come round and recommends … Read more

The First Five Pages

What can an agent tell from the first five pages of your manuscript? According to Noah Lukeman, plenty. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile analyzes the types of mistakes that appear in “99 percent” of the unsolicited manuscripts received by agents and editors. His experience as a … Read more

Taking Another Look at Strunk and White

April 16 was the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, a slim grammar reference that is recommended to students and writers everywhere. I wrote a post on it not too long ago, saying that it “deserves its long popularity as a concise guide to correct usage.” This … Read more

Love Song to a Dictionary

Most writers of English in every part of the world acknowledge the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as a reliable reference to settle questions of spelling, pronunciation, and usage. Today computers are used to organize, store, and supplement the online Second Edition of the OED at the rate of 4,000 new words a year. But the … Read more

Swiss Army Knife for Writers

Until now, the only Thesaurus on my shelves was Roget’s, and it was gathering dust because I quit using it years ago. I found it more useful to look up a word in a regular dictionary and see what synonyms were offered. Not ideal, but it gave me more options than Roget’s. Now, however, I’ve … Read more