Thursday 8 May 2008

Full point

Today's post title comes from my GCSE French teacher, who was French, and whose near-perfect grasp of English included some anomalies. She was known as Madame Blankety-Blank, as she would use this term when indicating a blank to be completed in a sentence...
Anyway, Thursday again already, and this week's Booking Through Thursday:

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Hmm. Well, that's quite a broad question. I assumed on fi
rst reading that 'writing guides' meant ones to help creative writing, but I suppose (in the context) that it's instead about correct writing. I did go through a spate of reading Creative Writing Guides, but decided to stop, as they all seemed to be written by people who'd never had a novel published...

As regards correct writing guides, grammar books etc.... no, I don't read 'em. I have one or two, and read through some Victorian ones for my English Language coursework, but I learnt most of the written grammar and punctuation rules I know through just general reading - which is much the best way to learn spelling, grammar and so forth (though not always meaning... I mentioned 'vicariously' the other day, which I always thought meant more or less 'enthusiastically'). From the basics, through the difference between colons and semi-colons, to any number of tricky rules - I don't think I'd be able to learn from guides. It would have to be picked up in my day-to-day reading. Luckily day-to-day reading isn't something I've ever felt reluctant to do....

How about you?


  1. Well, I don't read over grammar guides for English, but do read them for other languages because I am learning Chinese and Spanish. And I don't see why anyone would want to read those guides otherwise!

    However, I do sometimes read lists like this:

    because I live in secret fear that one day I will misuse a word in a huge conference or something like that. Although I have NEVER said "irregardless."

  2. Because I edit and proofread in the day job I have a plethora of such books .. but the only one that is elegant, educational, entertaining and excellent (according to me) is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

    It is also delightful simply to read.

    The other one that immediately comes to mind is the Economist's Style Guide. And, of course, there's always Fowler's Modern English Usage.

  3. Some of us have lesser literary accomplishments than Simon and the vast majority of his regular contributers to this weblog. For that small band (of one?)
    I would also recommend "Mind the Stop" Carey G.V., "A Dictionary of Troublesome Words" Bryson B., "Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers" CBE Style Manual Committee, and a book that was given to me as I started to write up my PhD thesis and proved very useful "A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations" Turabian K.L., Grossman J., Bennett A.


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at