Adventures in Reading


June Casagrande’s Mortal Syntax

I very much have a love hate relationship when it comes to grammar and the like: I think it’s completely fascinating but in my experience too often people are complete sticks-in-the-mud about it. The first style guide I ever read was Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe Is I, which was suggested to me by a college professor and it wasn’t too long before I discovered June Casagrande’s Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies. I adored Casagrande’s book and had been excitedly waiting for her sophomore style book: Mortal Syntax.

Mortal Syntax is a list of 101 frequently used and sometimes abused phrases and words. However, unlike most style guides, Casagrande’s objective is not to tell you what to do, but rather she provides practical advice and suggestions based on her readings of dictionaries, style guides, and usage books. Each chapter (mostly quite short) ranges from humorous to hysterical.

And if that wasn’t enough you might actually learn something. I can now hold my head up high and correct my partner the next time he rants how itch is not a verb (even if it’s only to frustrate him). Likewise, I found myself corrected in more than a few chapters (my personal favorite being the usages of gender and sex in chapter 51). Whether you consider yourself a grammar expert or are fortunate enough to string a few paragraphs together, Casagrande’s Mortal Syntax is an engaging look at style that will leave you laughing and help boost your confidence.

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