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A Stiff, Lifeless, Taciturn Overview
on June 1, 2004
"The Elements of Grammar," intended as a companion for the excellent "The Elements of Style," suffers from a stiff, lifeless presentation that detracts mightily from the grammatical advice. The format of the book itself hinders the reader: the type is too small and relentlessly the same; the examples that follow the rules are set in even smaller type; no visual guides or aids link paired columns of text, making one's eyes climb up and down; and the chapters lack any internal navigational devices to help the reader find his or her way.
The author's explanations lack the authority required for this book to find a spot on my desk. For instance, we are told that a comma may be used to separate the month from the year when the date is omitted, but that current usage permits writing the month and year without a comma between them. I prefer the definitive advice in "The Chicago Manual of Style," which indicates no comma is needed when a month and year appear without the date.
In discussing the use of colons to introduce a list, the author allows a colon to follow a verb, bringing the sentence to a dead stop and interrupting the connection of verb and object or complement.
References to the Government Printing Office Style Manual do not help her case. That style manual is hopelessly outdated and insular
In fairness, Ms. Shertzer delivers a no-frills, somewhat taciturn overview to grammar and usage and one could do much worse than to follow most of the advice here. But this book is not the first choice for a novice editor or young writer unless already thoroughly steeped in the rules and practice of grammar. And in that case, this book's usefulness would be minimal. Seasoned editors and writers would not find this book that useful and many no doubt have nearly new, little used copies of this book wedged into their reference shelves.