Because of you...

Remember how I recently promised you I’d read ten books I already own before buying anything new? Well, I’ve made excellent headway, mostly because it didn't take long for me to realize that several of the books aren't right for me. I'll give those away soon. This one, though. This one’s a keeper:

Are you the kind of person who can't help but proofread menus and road signs? Are you still, after all this time, unsure when exactly to hyphenate words before a noun? If so, then (a) Can we be friends? We have so much in common! And (b) You are going to love Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. Dreyer is the chief copy editor at Random House, so he knows of what he speaks. Better yet, he's funny and clear and makes topics like common misuses of the question mark truly engaging. Take, just as one example, the list of sentences he provides to illustrate the rule that a sentence beginning "I wonder" should not end with a question mark: "I wonder who's kissing her now. I wonder what the king is doing tonight. I wonder, wonder who--who-oo-oo-oo--who wrote the book of love." The man even made me laugh discussing the difference between lie and lay. First he goes through the whole transitive/intransitive verb explanation. Then he says, "Unfortunately, both verbs can and must be conjugated, and this is where the trouble kicks in. Let's run through them, tensely." Obviously I'm a big dork--why else would I laugh at that? But it is a huge problem that the past tense of lie is lay; it complicates the matter needlessly; I've tried to explain the lie/lay difference to folks like my daughters and my personal trainer and Eric Clapton,* and the conversation always gets tense when we hit the issue of tense. So: "Let's run through them, tensely." That's funny! Fine. Maybe this book is a particularly good fit for me. But even if you feel zero interest in reading it cover to cover without skipping a single footnote, as I am now doing, you'd still end up glad to have it in your home. I mean, the book includes forty-four pages on easily confused words! Wondering whether you should use blond or blonde, an issue that arose for me just yesterday? The answer can be found on page 173. If blond-blonde doesn't sell you, I don't know what will. So I'll stop gushing and share a quick update: Marcie and I have moved from planning to drafting the middle-grade novel we're writing together. It's still very early days, but it's nice to see pages underway.

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