Adventures in Reading


Nonfiction: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

Roughly once a year I try to dip into a grammar, usage or style guide simply to brush up on my own lackluster skills. Additionally, reading a new guide is interesting to see what and how language has evolved since the last book. Though apparently quite the podcast success, I picked up Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty on impulse.

This user-friendly guide to grammar, punctuation and usage promises the reader to be “right most of the time.” Much of the advice Mignon gives is hokey, but Mignon knows she’s being hokey and that the antics of Aardvark and Squiggly actually will help the reader recall different rules.

With Grammar Girl’s I picked up the difference between pronouncing the prior to a vowel sound versus a consonant sound or using by or on accident. But it’s the final chapters of Grammar Girl’s that really makes it stand out from the rest of the usage crowd: chapters on Internet use as well as brainstorming tips for creative and nonfiction writing. Both of these are areas mostly neglected in other guides.

Though not nearly as funny as June Casagrande’s grammar books, Fogarty’s book is a terrific guide superbly suited for high school students and undergraduates. Fogarty comes out as a more progressive usage user, which certainly makes me quite partial to her book and prods me to look into her podcast.

Q&A from Conjugate Visits.



Revisted Reviews: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande and Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Connor

While reading Grammar Snobs, I kept wondering if it was healthy to be laughing so much at a book on grammar. I read the book in one sitting (excluding a short walk with the dog and a few minutes hiding from a door-to-door salesperson) and it has to be one of the most-user-friendly books I’ve ever encountered when it comes to grammar. In addition, Casagrande may be the first author I’ve encountered who doesn’t immediately disparage modern “netspeak” and attempts at countering racism and sexism in language. A great read for anyone looking to brush up on grammar or to become more familiar with writing.

Woe Is I was suggested to me some years ago by an English literature professor and I’ve only finally gotten around to finishing it. As the title states, it’s a grammar guide written in (mostly) plain English. Woe Is I is a an easy and enjoyable read for anyone wanting to brush up on their grammar, spelling, and punctuation and O’Connor makes use of terrific and creative sentences that make the various rules easier to recall. I certainly had some disagreements with the book (after all, language is living) and the biggest turn off for me was the lack of acknowledging more progressive and modern language.

It’s not really much of a secret: I’m quite the fan of evolving language and progressive usage. This has led to heated arguments with more antiquarian language sticklers, but unless you’re writing for a specific style guide (e.g. for work or an academic paper) most usage rules (and even some grammar) seem pretty damn flexible. (Even dictionaries disagree!) In nearly a year of blogging at Adventures in Reading, I have received a small amount of nit picks from persnickety grammar readers, which I always find curious because my blog of all places is so casual and informal. Regardless of the “snobs” out there, language is fun and entertaining and one of my secret joys is perusing recently published grammar and usage guides.



I Bought A Book!

I simply could not stop myself. Borders recently had a 40% off coupon available and I had been eying the latest edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage. I could not resist indulging with that discount especially because the book is normally (even used through Amazon) fairly expensive. For those of you unfamiliar with Garner’s or Fowler’s, these are usage guides that at first glance look somewhat like dictionaries but are designed to explain contemporary usage of words and phrases. It’s where you learn that “zeitgeist” no longer needs a capital “Z,” but Xmas does need a capital “X.” You might be surprised how handy this reference tool can be.

I have another confession to make though: I bought two books. I purchased Barron’s Spanish Idioms. Idoms are often particular to one language and can be difficult to translate. I have to admit that I’m not really beating myself up too much over either of these splurges. Both of these are reference books and I’ve already made good use of them.