NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A sharp, funny grammar guide they’ll actually want to read, from Random House’s longtime copy chief and one of Twitter’s leading language gurus
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY O: The Oprah Magazine• Paste• Shelf Awareness
“Essential (and delightful!)”—People
We all write, all the time: books, blogs, emails. Lots and lots of emails. And we all want to write better. Benjamin Dreyer is here to help.
As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition. Now he distills everything he has learned from the myriad books he has copyedited and overseen into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward.
As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”
And yes: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”
Chockful of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts, this book will prove to be invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people’s prose, and—perhaps best of all—an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language.
Praise for Dreyer’s English
“Playful, smart, self-conscious, and personal . . . One encounters wisdom and good sense on nearly every page of Dreyer’s English.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Destined to become a classic.”—The Millions
“Dreyer can help you . . . with tips on punctuation and spelling. . . . Even better: He’ll entertain you while he’s at it.”—Newsday
I’m an English prof, and I own more writing books than I can count. This is one of the funniest, smartest, and useful books I’ve read. This book, I believe anyway, is perfect for writers and profs who are working through manuscripts of their own because Dreyer offers a publisher’s perspective on writing issues and worries that plague advanced writers: All writers make mistakes, and most writers make the same mistakes repeatedly, and you can always look things up. The explanations he gives are memorable because they are funny and smart. So, you may not learn hard and fast grammar rules, but you will get a better sense of how to handle gnarly writing challenges. I read this book cover to cover in one night. And I laughed out loud many times. I appreciated the care that must have gone into modulating the tone of the book and anticipating specific worries that writers have. One gets the feeling they (I am keeping an open mind about “they,” as the text sort of kind of encourages) are talking to a seasoned professional who wants to help you and has nothing to prove. Just good advice and encouragement. So very glad I found this gem of a book.55
I absolutely adore this. I do. It’s perfectly charming in an unconventional way. I’m both reading the book and listening to the audiobook (also available on iTunes.) Benjamin Dreyer expresses the rules, nonrules, and ettiquette of grammar and language through experiences he has faced as a copyeditor over the years. Rules are explained through experiences and stories. It’s fantastic. I enjoy the narrative that mixes with the lessons as they help me remember what should and should not be said or written. Although, perhaps if Dreyer were to see this review, he would think that my English could use some work. All in all, I find this book highly enjoyable and truly entertaining. Much more than a style manual, it is helpful and hilarious and overly amusing.55