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Thread: Your Go To Grammar Reference Book

  1. #1
    Hashtag Cacophony's Avatar
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    Your Go To Grammar Reference Book

    I've been searching for a decent reference book to supplement my copy of Elements of Style. Any recommendations would be helpful.
    I do what I can to write what I hear in my head, but it's often hard to sort through the din.

  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Myself?

    Elements of Style is a reference for me. Nothing really comes close.

    But, I've got very good grammar. It was one of the reasons why I started writing.
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  3. #3
    The last thing a mouse sees. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Are you looking for a textbook on grammar (something you can study), or a "handy reference" on grammar that you can turn to when needed?



  4. #4
    Hashtag Cacophony's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    Are you looking for a textbook on grammar (something you can study), or a "handy reference" on grammar that you can turn to when needed?
    I love to study, so I would probably go for both.
    I do what I can to write what I hear in my head, but it's often hard to sort through the din.

  5. #5
    The last thing a mouse sees. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    There's the Grammar Girl handbook, which is done in a breezy, light-hearted way.

    English Composition and Grammar
    by Warriner is something of a modern-day classic.

    A handy (and cheap) book on grammar is Essential English Grammar by Glucker. Some times it's nice to have a small handbook nearby rather than having to pull out a ten-pound textbook. It's showing its age a little, but I still prefer it.

    There are dozens of reasonably good grammar handbooks. I find that they collect over the years. I probably have at least a dozen in the house. You could go to a bookstore and just browse; usually a quick look at a grammar handbook will tell if it's one you would like or not. One style will appeal to one person, while another will appeal to someone else.



  6. #6
    Hashtag Cacophony's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    There's the Grammar Girl handbook, which is done in a breezy, light-hearted way.

    English Composition and Grammar
    by Warriner is something of a modern-day classic.

    A handy (and cheap) book on grammar is Essential English Grammar by Glucker. Some times it's nice to have a small handbook nearby rather than having to pull out a ten-pound textbook. It's showing its age a little, but I still prefer it.

    There are dozens of reasonably good grammar handbooks. I find that they collect over the years. I probably have at least a dozen in the house. You could go to a bookstore and just browse; usually a quick look at a grammar handbook will tell if it's one you would like or not. One style will appeal to one person, while another will appeal to someone else.
    Thanks for the input! Much appreciated.
    I do what I can to write what I hear in my head, but it's often hard to sort through the din.

  7. #7
    resident curmudgeon
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    If you have Strunk & White, anything else will just confuse the issue, and will probably be wrong.

  8. #8
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    I have got versus I have?

    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Myself?

    Elements of Style is a reference for me. Nothing really comes close.

    But, I've got very good grammar. It was one of the reasons why I started writing.
    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com...t-grammar.aspx

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW ComicBent's Avatar
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    None

    Actually, I do not refer to any grammar texts, since English grammar has been part of my DNA for decades.

    However, a good reference at the expert level is The New Fowler's Modern English Usage. There you can find discussions, in dictionary style, of many chronic issues in English grammar. Do not bother with it unless you have an understanding of grammar already.

    For the person who is still learning or is continually struggling, I recommend going to Abe Books (a source of used books) online. Look for an old edition of The Harbrace College Handbook. Try to find something old, like the 5th, 6th, or 7th edition. I taught from the 6th when I was a graduate student, and a couple of years ago I ordered a copy of it to have for sentimental reasons. These old books are really cheap. The shipping is usually as much as the book.

    More recent grammar texts have two basic flaws. (1) They follow political correctness in regard to gender reference. (2) They elevate Yahoo linguistic practice to the level of correctness.

    The book that I have recommended is not a huge reference tome. It is small, concise, and to the point, but it contains excellent discussion and examples. I have recommended it many times, but I have never heard back that anyone has actually bought it and used it.

    Best ...
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cacophony View Post
    I've been searching for a decent reference book to supplement my copy of Elements of Style. Any recommendations would be helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Myself?

    Elements of Style is a reference for me. Nothing really comes close.

    But, I've got very good grammar. It was one of the reasons why I started writing.
    That'll be a no, then?

  11. #11
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ComicBent View Post
    More recent grammar texts have two basic flaws. (1) They follow political correctness in regard to gender reference. (2) They elevate Yahoo linguistic practice to the level of correctness.
    Those would be usage or style guides; not grammar texts.

    And God forbid we not encourage people to be as sexist, and heteronormative as possible. Let's make sure we all refer to lady doctors, Black dentists, actresses, and handicapped gardeners.

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  12. #12
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    I have an old copy of the Bloomsbury Grammar Guide, by Gordon Jarvie. It's a pretty good general grammar guide, though there are probably plenty of others just like it.

  13. #13
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobJ View Post
    I have an old copy of the Bloomsbury Grammar Guide, by Gordon Jarvie. It's a pretty good general grammar guide, though there are probably plenty of others just like it.
    English grammar hasn't really changed much.

    A local college textbook store or the used bookstore will have a number of grammar texts or handbooks intended for undergraduate writers; go, seek, fine one that works.

    There are, in addition, grammar texts for linguists and philologists; they won't help most writers much, but quite often, ESL grammar texts are very very well-done, and helpful.

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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    A local college textbook store or the used bookstore will have a number of grammar texts or handbooks intended for undergraduate writers; go, seek, fine one that works.
    Yep. You can get slightly old ones (that is, recently superseded by a new edition) for next to nothing. I taught grammar at the college level and had three dozen style/grammar guides on my shelf (before giving it all away years ago, or I'd mail you a box). They're all good and mostly designed a little differently from one another. Just find one you like.

    And a usage guide in addition is a nice thing to have.

    Better to go recent than old. Some of the old stuff has changed.

    Or you can do it all on-line at various university grammar websites. Here's just one: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index2.htm


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    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorna_w View Post
    Yep. You can get slightly old ones (that is, recently superseded by a new edition) for next to nothing.
    Do get a used one; because these are generally considered textbooks the cover price for a new one can be killer.

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    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... have found Barron's Pocket Guide to Correct Grammar useful. Read it twice. Clear and to the point. Nothing too complex, either, which suits me fine.
    Last edited by Ken; 05-09-2012 at 03:24 AM. Reason: 'to' instead of 'too' :-(

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    Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, by June Casagrande. And another one by her, Mortal Syntax. There are a lot of "rules" that are merely style choices that have been elevated over the years, particularly by Strunk & White. While the old snobs are still useful, they're not always right.

  18. #18
    The Surreal Thing AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I'm quite fond of Lunsford & Connors The St. Martin's Handbook, which I got for under $5 when the newer edition came out. There aren't a lot of things I look up for myself, but when I'm doing critique and trying to explain why something is wrong, it's a great reference for finding the correct names of what comes to me more or less naturally.

    Oh, look, there are copies available for three cents! http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...condition=used

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    practical experience, FTW Lil's Avatar
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    I second the recommendation for Warriners. It's basic, standard, clear and useful. It isn't trendy or cute, but if you have a question or are uncertain, this is the place to go for an answer.

    Confession: This is what I used for years when I was teaching.

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  21. #21
    Needs More Hands.... Fallen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    Do get a used one; because these are generally considered textbooks the cover price for a new one can be killer.
    Library sales can be good. I picked up three of mine (Collins) for 10p each.

  22. #22
    Needs More Hands.... Fallen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    Oh, look, there are copies available for three cents! http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...condition=used

    Maryn, who knows a bargain when she sees one
    Damn, Maryn beat mine. (I think *shakes head at lousy math skills*)

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    English Composition and Grammar[/I] by Warriner is something of a modern-day classic.
    ... took a look at this one on Amazon. Sounds like a good book. Got great reviews. Will probably buy it. There are lots of used copies available for cheap. One thing I'm concerned about is getting one that's overly marked up. All of the used ones say they 'may' be. So I guess you don't know how marked up they are until you buy one. Guess that's one of the risks of buying used books of this sort.

  24. #24
    The last thing a mouse sees. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
    I'm quite fond of Lunsford & Connors The St. Martin's Handbook, which I got for under $5 when the newer edition came out. There aren't a lot of things I look up for myself, but when I'm doing critique and trying to explain why something is wrong, it's a great reference for finding the correct names of what comes to me more or less naturally.
    I started to mention St. Martin's as well, but I just knew Maryn would be along to suggest it.

    I might not recommend it as a first choice to someone who just wanted to study grammar, but it is a great reference to have.



  25. #25
    Wicked chicken AW Moderator evilrooster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliffhanger View Post
    There are a lot of "rules" that are merely style choices that have been elevated over the years
    That is as good a description of how grammar and language evolves as any you'll find anywhere.

    And it always seems arbitrary and tyrannical, all old school ties and toasting forks, when you're in the thick of it. Or if you're on the other side of the line, it's a cacophony of young punks writing LOLcats in txt speak, and all that is good and graceful (or even clear and comprehensible) in our shared tongue has died, alas.

    It's useful to know formal grammar, even the stuff that you consider overly arbitrary and plain wrong. It's valuable to know how to conform to Strunk & White for those occasions when you're writing for people who value that. And it's also helpful to know that Jane Austen used "they" as a singular pronoun (albeit in dialog) and what Churchill (may have) thought about avoiding ending sentences with a preposition*.

    I rant, I rant. I know. But the belief that Strunk and White is an "old snob" is in its own way as false as the impulse to treat it as gospel truth.


    * "This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put."

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