Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Different Kind of Style Book

It's called Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, by Jenny Baranick,  and it's HILARIOUS.

Keep in mind, I'm a complete nerd, so when I say a grammar book is hilarious, it's because I actually enjoy reading those things. I think Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is fun reading.

If you're one of my readers who isn't a grammar book nerd, you may stop reading now and I won't hold it against you.

For those of you still reading, - here's what I love.

First of all, just the subtitle: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Writing Errors.

Second, the brilliant lesson in writing a compelling opening. Here's how she launches her first chapter - on the importance of spelling:

Spelling can be as elusive as the female orgasm. We spell a word, and we think, "Ooooh, I think that's it. Wait.... no. Let me just. Oh there, maybe that's it. No. Oh, I don't know...I'm exhausted."

Admit it. You laughed. How could you not? You're hooked, right?

In this same chapter, Ms. Baranick, a college professor, goes on to illustrate the bugaboo SpellCheck. I love how she points out that it merely checks the accuracy of the word you THINK you want to use, blithely allowing you to make an ass of yourself with the WRONG WORD. Think affect instead of effect, and other grand mistakes we make. All. The. Time.

Each chapter is full of All The Mistakes that somehow crept into written English over the years. Like the words "irregardless" and "anyways" - when did that happen? They've never been words. NEVER. I love that she addresses this.

In the chapter on Grammar Myth Busting, Baranick takes aim at the old chestnut we all grew up with: that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition.

You can. Really, I promise. I've been trying to demystify that rule in my business writing classes for years and have had students very earnestly tell me that I am wrong, the rule is right, and they know because their English teacher taught them this when they were in 7th grade.

Sigh. So did mine. She was wrong too. Bless their hearts.

The preposition thing comes from LATIN, people. We speak ENGLISH. The rules aren't the same. PLEASE END YOUR SENTENCES IN PREPS WHEN YOU NEED TO.

Anyone heard the old Winston Churchill joke?  The one where he was poking fun at one of his speechwriters who was dutifully and nonsensically burying prepositions. He said, "This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put".

Nuff said.

Finally, the book is a great teaching aide for anyone (like me) who needs fresh new exercises to help keep students interested.

Anyone else seen it already? What was your favorite part?

What other grammar/style aides do you turn to for help?

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