Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Okay, so I'm a nerd for reading a grammar book from cover to cover. But this is not your usual grammar book. It's not organized in an indexable [not an acceptable word] order which starts with the parts of speech, proceeds with tenses and by the time you get to idiomatic phrases, you're bored to a deep comma, oops, coma.

This book is a collection of articles on various grammar topics. June Casagrande, who writes for the Los Angeles Times, treats grammar with irreverence. She pokes fun at grammar demigods William Strunk, EB White, and punctuation pundit Lynne Truss and other so-called grammar experts, whom she calls grammar snobs and accuses of bluffing with rules that none of them are 100% sure about anyway. She exposes the inconsistencies within and among grammar bibles like the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook.

Casagrande sometimes sounds like one of the grammar snobs she vilifies, but her ire is mostly targeted towards those who get off feeling superior by making regular English speakers feel stupid, keeping them ignorant by confusing them with the pedantic, though sometime seemingly random, rules.

The 42 articles, written with a healthy dose of humor, are informative. They present not just one unbendable rule per situation, like most style books do, but they share alternative rules. This means that sometimes we just really have to use our judgment and rely on our ears, because there are different ways to attack a grammar issue.

I devoured the book. I learned quite a bit that I can use in practical situations. And I promise (to try) not to be a grammar snob.