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Cacophony
05-08-2012, 03:51 PM
I've been searching for a decent reference book to supplement my copy of Elements of Style. Any recommendations would be helpful.

Kerosene
05-08-2012, 03:53 PM
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.

alleycat
05-08-2012, 03:57 PM
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?

Cacophony
05-08-2012, 04:30 PM
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.

alleycat
05-08-2012, 04:41 PM
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.

Cacophony
05-08-2012, 05:29 PM
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.

Jamesaritchie
05-08-2012, 05:57 PM
If you have Strunk & White, anything else will just confuse the issue, and will probably be wrong.

tko
05-08-2012, 07:39 PM
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/have-got-grammar.aspx

Sorry, couldn't resist.

ComicBent
05-08-2012, 08:20 PM
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 (http://www.abebooks.com) (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 ...

RobJ
05-08-2012, 08:32 PM
I've been searching for a decent reference book to supplement my copy of Elements of Style. Any recommendations would be helpful.


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?

Medievalist
05-08-2012, 08:44 PM
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.

RobJ
05-08-2012, 08:57 PM
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.

Medievalist
05-08-2012, 09:30 PM
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.

lorna_w
05-08-2012, 11:01 PM
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

Medievalist
05-08-2012, 11:23 PM
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.

Ken
05-08-2012, 11:59 PM
... 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.

Cliffhanger
05-09-2012, 12:03 AM
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.

Maryn
05-09-2012, 12:41 AM
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-listing/031244317X/ref=dp_olp_used/181-4985750-5664830?ie=UTF8&condition=used

Maryn, who knows a bargain when she sees one

Lil
05-09-2012, 05:49 AM
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.

blacbird
05-09-2012, 07:11 AM
The work of:

Willa Cather
Ernest Hemingway
John Steinbeck
Ray Bradbury
Flannery O'Connor
Pete Dexter
John Irving
Barbara Kingsolver
Kurt Vonnegut
John D. MacDonald
James M. Cain
Graham Greene
Theodore Sturgeon
Ursula LeGuin
George Orwell
. . .

caw

Fallen
05-09-2012, 11:24 AM
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.

Fallen
05-09-2012, 12:25 PM
Oh, look, there are copies available for three cents! http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/031244317X/ref=dp_olp_used/181-4985750-5664830?ie=UTF8&condition=used

Maryn, who knows a bargain when she sees one

Damn, Maryn beat mine. (I think *shakes head at lousy math skills*)

Ken
05-09-2012, 04:10 PM
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.

alleycat
05-10-2012, 05:20 AM
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.

evilrooster
05-10-2012, 11:14 AM
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."

Cacophony
05-10-2012, 11:21 AM
My thanks to all of you for your suggestions! A few exceptions aside, you've all been very helpful.

Dawnstorm
05-10-2012, 10:07 PM
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.

Could you clarify what you mean by this? EoS is a style guide and not a grammar. Some of the "rules" in there can't even be phrased in the terms of grammar (e.g. "Make the paragraph the unit of composition" [didn't check if that's verbatim]).


... and what Churchill (may have) thought about avoiding ending sentences with a preposition*.

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

A more honest (or more grammatically careful) Churhill(?) might have put this as:

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

That's because most of the people who actually hold to that particular rule would (probably) have called "up" an adverb. There's a straw man in this example. (I, too, call "up" a preposition, but since I didn't formulate that rule, that's quite irrelevant.)

evilrooster
05-10-2012, 10:56 PM
Could you clarify what you mean by this? EoS is a style guide and not a grammar. Some of the "rules" in there can't even be phrased in the terms of grammar (e.g. "Make the paragraph the unit of composition" [didn't check if that's verbatim]).

EoS is indeed a style guide and not a grammar; I was using conformance to it and good grammar in parallel, rather than using one as an expansion or appositive to the other. They were both supporting examples for my broader point, which addressed Cliffhanger's: there are linguistic conventions that we follow not because they are correct in the abstract but because it is useful to us to do so in order to reach a particular audience in a particular way.


A more honest (or more grammatically careful) Churhill(?) might have put this as:

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

That's because most of the people who actually hold to that particular rule would (probably) have called "up" an adverb. There's a straw man in this example. (I, too, call "up" a preposition, but since I didn't formulate that rule, that's quite irrelevant.)Indeed, but phrasing it like that would have constituted a failure to make his rhetorical point. Quibbling about the precise role of "up" in this context is no different than quibbling about whether one should end a sentence with a preposition.

His point was that good sense and clear meaning are more important than the pettifogging rules of language. The good sense and clear meaning of his snark caused him to elide a grammatical distinction. Works for me.

Dawnstorm
05-11-2012, 01:58 AM
EoS is indeed a style guide and not a grammar; I was using conformance to it and good grammar in parallel, rather than using one as an expansion or appositive to the other. They were both supporting examples for my broader point, which addressed Cliffhanger's: there are linguistic conventions that we follow not because they are correct in the abstract but because it is useful to us to do so in order to reach a particular audience in a particular way.

Thanks for the clarification.


Indeed, but phrasing it like that would have constituted a failure to make his rhetorical point. Quibbling about the precise role of "up" in this context is no different than quibbling about whether one should end a sentence with a preposition.

Interestingly, I thought that both the "rule" and Churhill's comment are on a page:


His point was that good sense and clear meaning are more important than the pettifogging rules of language. The good sense and clear meaning of his snark caused him to elide a grammatical distinction. Works for me.

That was probably his point. And it's a point made against people who think that the "rules of language" as they see it aid clarity. You're not going to convince them that they're wrong by misrepresenting what they say. You might rally others against them, though. I'm not interested in grammar wars. I've seen a discussion about whether "taxi" in "taxi driver" is a noun or an adjective. If they had bothered to communicate that might have been interesting (I like that sort of thing). But the fortification of positions... No, thank you.

An ironic distance to both positions would be ideal for me, but since I'm actually interested in the underlying phenomena... If I have anything to add to the actual topic of this thread it's: no one source is absolute. Read as many as you can. Take nothing too seriously. Don't judge people's cognitive capabilities or moral character on the language they use. Keep an open mind. (I've read mostly academic grammars, so I'm no help with the particulars in here.)

Fallen
05-11-2012, 12:56 PM
no one source is absolute.

QFT. Which is also why grammar hangs constantly between frustrating & interseting.