Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer 2019

I LOVED THIS BOOK, but I’m quite certain that not every reader will share this feeling.  If you’re a writer, a pedant, a trivia lover, an obsessive about correctness, or someone who just loves clever repartee,  go out and buy this book now (or simply click at the bottom of this review).  Dreyer, the Copy Chief of Random House publishers provides an enormously entertaining walk through grammar, syntax, spelling, confusing homonyms, and dozens of his personal ‘peeves and crotchets’.  Drawing upon years of experience as a copy editor, he embraces his role “to assist and enhance and advise rather than to correct—indeed, not to try to transform a book into the copy editor’s notion of what a good book should be but, simply and with some measure of humility, to help fulfill an author’s vision and make each book into the ideal version of itself.”  He then provides nearly 300 pages of suggestions, rules, and guidelines for clear and correct writing.  Sound boring?  Think again, as he instructs, entertains, and just plain has fun with this potentially deadly dry material.  There were many important ‘take homes’,  but now I face my next writing assignment with some trepidation.  When to end a word with ‘able vs ‘ible; how to correctly spell prerogative (Confession: I misspelled it the first two times I typed this and spellcheck failed to catch it), protuberance, pharaoh (same problem, again!), rococo; how to differentiate ‘less than’ from ‘fewer than’; when to use epigram and when epigraph; and perhaps my longest-standing and favorite confusion—do you run a ‘gantlet’ or a ‘gauntlet’, and if it’s the latter, have you already thrown it down?.  In typical fashion, Dreyer makes this clear and also elicited (not ‘illicited’!) a laugh when he said:  “I’m a ‘gauntlet’ fellow. I find the very sight of ‘gantlet’ fussy and prissy, as if those two lines of assailants are raring to smack you around with doilies.” Perhaps most amazing, I think I finally understand when to use ‘which’ and when to use ‘that’.  I learned a slew of new pedantic terms, e.g. a CamelCase capital is a midword capital letter as in LaGuardia or IPhone.  The section on how to spell proper names of books, movies, individuals, etc. might be my favorite. The first entry is Bud Abbott (2 b’s, 2 t’s), and Dreyer expands the explanation by referencing the Bagel Street Sketch, something new to me but which had me laughing out loud while watching it on You Tube.  I could go on for pages, but suffice it to say (oops, a cliche!), this book is informative, entertaining, and will be kept on my bookshelf for handy reference in the future.  I’ve enjoyed other books about grammar and punctuation (see Evans {#2288}, Norris {#1890}, Houston {#1680}), and this book is the best by far. Enjoy it!

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