How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar

How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar How Not to Write is a wickedly witty book about grammar, usage, and style William Safire, the author of the New York Times Magazine column On Language, homes in on the essential misrules of grammar, those mistakes that call attention to the major rules and regulations of writing He tells you the correct way to write and then tells you when it is all right to break the rules In this lighthearted guide, he chooses the most common and perplexing concerns of writers new and old Each mini chapter starts by stating a misrule like Don t use Capital letters without good REASON Safire then follows up with solid and entertaining advice on language, grammar, and life He covers a vast territory from capitalization, split infinitives it turns out you can split one if done meaningfully , run on sentences, and semi colons to contractions, the double negative, dangling participles, and even onomatopoeia Originally published under the title Fumblerules I am on the verge of editing a large book compiled from the writing of other people I ve had no compunction about fumbling through my own knowledge of grammar concerning my work, but feel a greater responsbility when handling the work of others I turned to the master for guidance, and he did not disappoint Safire s particular skill is to explain things just enough for the reader to understand, without belaboring any points unless he absolutely needs to He is clear as well on what is flexible I am on the verge of editing a large book compiled from the writing of other people I ve had no compunction about fumbling through my own knowledge of grammar concerning my work, but feel a greater responsbility when handling the work of others I turned to the master for guidance, and he did not disappoint Safire s particular skill is to explain things just enough for the reader to understand, without belaboring any points unless he absolutely needs to He is clear as well on what is flexible and what is not No matter how many grammar books I read, however, I ll split infinitives all the live long day It just doesn t bother me ideclinetowritearevelantrevieworevenusepunctuationonthegroundsthattodosoistoinvitecriticismmadnessanddespairduetothesubjectmatterofthebookbutiwillsayididnotloveitandfounditgenerallytoosimplemindedandiwishiknewofacompleteresourcetoimprovemygrammarsoicouldconfidentlyuseactualpunctuationandwriteaproperreviewPeriod. Safire covers fifty writing mistakes Most are familiar enough A few leap out as particularly good.On whether to split an infinitive, most of the debate is relaxed Doesn t matter much one way or another For Safire though, it depends on what the writer wants the adverb to modify or emphasize To say or write, suddenly to split the infinitive, to split the infinitive suddenly, to suddenly split the infinitive or to split suddenly the infinitive these all convey different shades of meani Safire covers fifty writing mistakes Most are familiar enough A few leap out as particularly good.On whether to split an infinitive, most of the debate is relaxed Doesn t matter much one way or another For Safire though, it depends on what the writer wants the adverb to modify or emphasize To say or write, suddenly to split the infinitive, to split the infinitive suddenly, to suddenly split the infinitive or to split suddenly the infinitive these all convey different shades of meaning Or I suppose they do, but it is certainly a worthwhile point to consider Safire tells us to get off our high horse when it comes to proper English We speak what he calls idiolect, an almagam of standard English, local pronunciation, personal idiosyncrasies, and downright dialect unique to each person Here and there, though, Safire does seem to stray some by insisting on what he views as proper.Euphemisms used as an act of kindness are ok Euphemisms that are excessively prudent, or that obfuscate, or that engage in commercial deception are not Correct idioms are those that are so often used that it would be a mistake to correct them on the grounds of pure logic When someone asks, how do you feel, they want to know your state of being and not, literally, how one goes about feeling.As with most of these writing books, each author has their i.e his her own preferences that don t really resonate well He wants him to mean humankind because he says that s what him originally meant, so there s no need literally to pull female into the mix But today there s substantial baggage with identifying him with all of humankind and his explanation no longer works Safire also objects to starting a sentence with a conjunction, because to conjoin means to connect two orwords or thoughts or clauses in a single sentence This is a place where the writer might relax some as the two sentences can be connected with a conjunction to convey the close connection between the two As long as it s not overused, it strikes me as a useful technique to string sentence thoughts together To make a point about placing the pronoun close to the subject it references, Safire makes a reference to Frank Gifford as the lonely end, when it was Bill Carpenter from West Point and apparently the correct reference is the lonesome end At the end of the book, Safire thanks the Gotcha Gang, the Nitpickers League and the Nitpicker s League I think the reference was to language purists, not to those who correct mistakes of fact This book provides a quick read for those who want to refresh their memory on how to write properly by remaining mindful of the rules of grammar, which instruct the reader what he she should definitely NOT do A fine and stately sentence can easily be carved out, if only we properly hew off all the confusing and ambiguous dross, and, of course, those damned dangling participles An overall negative feel upon the reader can naturally result from this Safire wittily stridently tells his reader This book provides a quick read for those who want to refresh their memory on how to write properly by remaining mindful of the rules of grammar, which instruct the reader what he she should definitely NOT do A fine and stately sentence can easily be carved out, if only we properly hew off all the confusing and ambiguous dross, and, of course, those damned dangling participles An overall negative feel upon the reader can naturally result from this Safire wittily stridently tells his reader No No No Well, maybe And some who pass through these fifty brief chapters on mostly what not to do may come away feeling stifled If you want a positive paean to beautiful and creative writing, along with an assurance that you, too, will soon reside in the literary glow of sweetness and light by the end of this brief work, you will be disappointed In fact, Safire admits to periodically breaking many of the rules he recounts and espouses In honor of Safire s irreverence, I have likewise indulged Safire is not a language dictator just its press agent Language, however, is a very benign dictator that truly adjusts to its subjects needs and whims For this reason, Safire is a fairly moderate grammarian and realist, despite his reputation Now, why should you spent an afternoon thumbing through a small book consisting of rules of grammar you should ve learned in grade school, and likely did Rules require constant attention, not just for the sake of obedience, or reform but also so they might be broken, willfully, purposefully, and, yes, wittily

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top