I’m having flashbacks to when learning English wasn’t fun: yardsticks, chalkboards, and red pens. Though Mr. Gwynne begins his grammar book saying proper learning is the path to true happiness, his content isn’t the most chipper. Instead, Gwynne stands atop the mountain of dead lexicographers, waving the weary flag of prescriptionists everywhere.
Two mistakes I made prior to writing this review: reading Margaret Atwood’s latest short story collection and reading Steven Pinker’s SENSE OF STYLE. If you’ve read Atwood’s writing, I hope you’ll agree with me that she is amazingly talented. Sorry, Mr. Gwynne, not just talented, but amazingly so. I believe Atwood to have the upmost control, confidence, and command of the English language. Again, alliteration deserved. Atwood chops, dices, and soufflés her words into a beautifully digestible literary meal—often breaking every of Gwynne’s stanch decrees of language. As for Pinker, check out his article in THE GUARDIAN:
Is it all bad? No. Move past the my-way-or-byway attitude and the paragraph starting ergos and you’re left holding a lovely handbook: twofold. One part definitions; one part style guide. As learning goes, mixing it up will always do you well. Just don’t let the meanness bog you down in the swamps of discouragement. As for the style guide, this is a handy look at Strunk’s original work before White tied it up. Of course, Strunk was imperfect and Gwynne has corrections for him, too.
I love all style guides and grammar books, but I love to make it fun. This book wasn’t fun and could callous an eager learner’s endeavors. Those that appreciate the masochistic effort of learning the definition of the word “participle”, proceed. While you are at it, pick up that book about eating, shooting and leaving: that author will call you stupid and hopes you get hit by lightning.
Meanwhile, I leave you with two articles, one from THE BALTIMORE SUN and one from MacMillian Dictionary’s blog, respectively:
Thank you to the folks at Knopf for sharing this with me for review.
You can find an ergo-filled preview and other full-of-energy reviews here: Gwynne’s Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English