Saturday, 4 April 2009

Grammar: Essential References

Here are two lovely books about grammar. Both are really nice and functional: they’re easy to understand, funny to read, and packed full of useful stuff; and since I got my hands on them I've used them both almost every day.

English Grammar for Dummies, written by Lesley J Ward and Geraldine Woods, is an excellent reference to keep by your desk: it’s very thorough and explores just about everything about the subject that you'll need to know.

My Grammar and I is smaller, and so more portable. Don't assume that its small size makes it less useful: Caroline Taggart and J A Wines have squeezed a lot of information between those deliciously textured covers along with a good few jokes too. My only quibble is that this one could do with an index, as the table of contents doesn't quite do it for me: but still. Two lovely books about grammar. Hours of fun for the writer and pedant. If you're a writer, buy them both: you need a grammar reference, and these two are excellent.


HelenMWalters said...

They both look really useful. My 'how-to-writing-books' shelf is bending in the middle but another couple won't hurt, surely.

none said...

I have Fowler's English Usage (updated version) and a TEFL grammar book that I bought to find arguments to justify me when I know I'm right :D.

DG said...

Sorry this is a question, rather than a comment (though I have to say, I'm rather fond of Lynn Truss's 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' funny and informative).

I now have an agent, but when looking approached John King.

Something about them didn't smell right and I withdrew my submission. They seem to be agents AND publish work...

But, after reading Kristin's post today over at Pub Rants, I was struck with guilt. What if they are dodgy and someone else got scammed. Do you know anything about them? They're not on P and E.

Thanks Jane! You are a superstar.

writtenwyrdd said...

Although it takes some serious wading to refresh my brain on a specific grammar topic, I really prefer wading through my Chicago Manual of Style.

But I probably could use a quick reference book, too.

Jane Smith said...

Buffy, I shall tell this to you but to no one else. I don't own a copy of Fowler's.

WW, I've always thought of the Chicago manual as being suitable and useful for editors, but not strictly necessary for writers: it's several house-bricks in size, and more detailed than most writers need, I'd have thought: add to that its cost and I'll admit, I don't own a copy of that one, either.

DG, I'm not familiar with this one: go to Absolute Write (link on the right if you've not been there before), and search the "Bewares and Background Checks" for a thread on this person or agent. If there's not one there already, then perhaps you should start one. Dave of P&E posts there regularly, and so does Victoria Struass (I tag along sometimes too). But you're more likely to find people there who know about the agency concerned, and who know their way around publishing, than you are anywhere else.

catdownunder said...

My favourite is "A communicative grammar of English" by Leech and Svartvik - bought years ago when I was still only an adolescent kitten. It is probably out of print but it was designed to teach TEFL students. Are cats TEFL students?
Seriously, it is excellent!

none said...

No Fowler's? Heresy! :D

My dad bought it for me, along with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and another grammar book whose title escapes me. Bless.

(word ver: uncleast -- someone who doesn't own a Fowler's ;).

Fiona Mackenzie. Writer said...

They're really good, I'm sure, but not so useful for dyslexics like me. I've yet to find one that fits the bill. Perhaps I'll write one with a navy background and white fonts - perfect for dyslexics or as I like to call us, curly thinkers:)

Chicklit Addict said...

Being a grammarian, or the Lynn Truss stylee "Stickler", I wholeheartedly approve of these recommendations!

Pepper Smith said...

Oooh, new grammar toys. Thanks!

none said...

Well, today I liberated a book called "Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary" from languishing unloved in an Oxfam shop. Bless.

Shakespeare's Housekeeper said...

Hi Jane,
I am absoultely rubbish at spelling and grammer.I have mentioned this in a very small place on my blog- i'm not the writer in our house-and i don't profess to be a writer...only the wife.
If i feel the need i sometimes get The Writer to check over stuff i've written. But that means he reads my inner most darkest thoughts. And that's not good. Because they are mostly about him.

Dave said...


The original edition of Strunk's Elements of Style is available for free online here:

it's not necessarily the best resource for looking up a particular rule, but it's a very quick read with lessons that can last a lifetime.

Some of the subjects, especially in the slang section, are dated, but Strunk's emphasis is on clarity -- the main purpose of grammar is the clear relaying of information and emotion. As long as you keep sight of that, many grammar problems will seem to simply slip away.