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Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195382754
ISBN-10: 0195382757
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Garner makes grammar fun, and readers will not only find elucidation but also moments of pure delight while browsing these pages. This edition includes more than 10,500 entries (an increase of approximately 1500 over the 2003 volume). There are preface statements from all three editions as well as new, worthwhile introductory essays: "Making Peace in the Language Wars" and "Ongoing Struggles of Garlic-Hangers" (a consideration of the descriptive vs. proscriptive debate). As always, the entries are not only filled with clear lessons about language usage, trends, and problems inherent in misuse, but they are also peppered with cleverly chosen examples of both usage and misusage. Entries run anywhere from a line or two about spelling ("espresso" not "expresso") to a full column (see "effete") or more (see "irregular verbs" and the table following). Added to this edition is a language-change index that rates where a disputed usage falls on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being "widely rejected" and 5 being "universally accepted") so that readers can gauge the correctness of a phrase such as "Hopefully, it won't rain tomorrow." Garner isn't a snob, though. His book is the best of its kind in that it simply reports the facts in an engaging way; language evolves and usage changes. The book ends with a 46-page glossary of grammatical, rhetorical, and other language-related terms, and a 10-page time line of books on usage. An invaluable ready-reference tool.—Herman Sutter, Saint Agnes Academy, Houston, TX
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The “prescriptive/descriptive” debate in usage is alive and well with this newest edition of Garner’s readable work. Featuring more than 10,500 entries (up from 9,000), this edition features several enhancements. They include identifying poor usage with an asterisk before the terms and ranking certain entries with a “Language Change Index,” which measures “how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become.” The scale is from 1 to 5, with 1 being rejected and 5 being fully accepted. For example, coupon being mispronounced “kyoo” instead of “koo” is given stage 4 (“the form is virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts”). More than 2,000 usages are ranked. Extras in the volume include a new essay from Garner (“The Ongoing Struggles of Garlic-Hangers”) as well as the essay that appeared in the previous edition (“Making Peace in the Language Wars,” in which Garner describes himself as being “a kind of descriptive prescriber”) and a concluding 47-page glossary of grammatical terms and a time line of books on usage. The main focus remains Garner’s entries and usage notes. They range from word entries that simply verify the spelling (mayonnaise), to those clarifying two terms (sight, site), to those where he offers his never dull opinions (such as holocaust, which he calls “one of our most hyperbolic words, beloved of jargonmongers and second-rate journalists”). But the longer essay entries on usage, ranging from the half-page Officialese to the 9-page Punctuation, are Garner’s bread and butter. One would be tempted to say that this is clearly one of the best works on the topic, but doing so would be using one of Garner’s weasel words (intensives such as clearly that “actually have the effect of weakening a statement”). Suffice it to say that it is highly recommended for most libraries. --Ken Black
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Product Details

  • Series: Garner's Modern American Usage
  • Hardcover: 1008 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition (August 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195382757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195382754
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 2 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bryan Garner is the award-winning author or editor of more than 20 books. He is a prolific lecturer, having taught more than 2,500 writing workshops since the 1991 founding of his company, LawProse, Inc. His works include Garner on Language and Writing and Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, co-written with Justice Antonin Scalia. Garner has served as editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary since 1995, and he is the author of the grammar-and-usage chapter in the venerable Chicago Manual of Style.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have no complaints with the content, but if they're going to charge nearly $25 for the Kindle edition, they could put a little more effort into it. The bulk of the book is all one "chapter", so if you want to look something up under "W", you have to hit "next page" for a half hour. They didn't bother to hyperlink the indexes, but rather just copied them literally from the print editions with the page numbers (which are useless on a Kindle). OUP ought to be ashamed of themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first part of this review discusses this book in general, and the second part discusses certain changes in the 3rd Edition. So feel free to skip to the second section if you're familiar with prior editions.

Garner has done it again with this revised edition of Garner's Modern American Usage. I've used this book for several years and it has been an invaluable resource for me in my writing-intensive occupation. In fact, I doubt seriously that I've written anything substantial in the past several years without turning to this book at least once. Often, I'm pretty confident about proper usage, but turn to this book anyway for entertainment (it rarely disappoints). I usually find myself enthusiastically agreeing with Mr. Garner, and rejoicing that this source is available to settle usage disputes. For those new to this book, most of the entries address proper usage of specific words or short phrases. There are also essay entries that address grammar, style, and other issues. The essays cover a broad range of topics. For example, there is an entry on "punctuation" and another on "jargon." And any usage guide with an essay called "Airlinese" (discussing gems such as "deplane") gets my vote.

I only recall disagreeing with Garner on minor points, such as whether to avoid the word "hopefully" altogether. I think it is a useful word and, hopefully, any stigma attached will dissipate with use (see what I did there?).

I would simply not do without this book, a style manual (such as the Chicago Manual), and a good dictionary.

There are five changes I'll note for this edition: (1) ranking of word usage/acceptance (1-5); (2) asterisks next to poor words; (3) new binding; (4) more entries; (5) revisions to prior entries.
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Format: Hardcover
I am now a three-edition aficionado of Bryan A. Garner's Modern American Usage (MAU).

I purchased the first edition at the South Tower of the World
Trade Center in 1998.

Then, under more sober circumstances, I purchased the second edition in 2003.

Finally, last week, I became the happy owner of the new Modern American
Usage, Third Edition (MAU 3, for short).

The pleasures from MAU 3 are substantial, with only a few minor

First, the major pleasures:

* As with the first two editions, almost every page of MAU 3 brings me
a new wealth of useful reminders and eye-opening information. For
example, readers cannot imagine how pleased I was to learn in MAU 3 about
"Contronyms" (e.g., the two opposed meanings of "scan"), which must
take their place alongside my discovery of "Mondegreens" in MAU 2. One
of my favorite mondegreens, encountered firsthand, is "I led the
pigeons to the flag," an odd mishearing of "I pledge allegiance to the
flag." (I politely told the young "pigeons" reciter about his error,
but he said he liked his version better than the traditional one. It is
certainly funnier.)

* By making MAU 3 taller and wider in format than MAUs 1 and 2, the author
has been able to retain the previous prefaces and essay ("Making Peace
in the Language Wars") while adding a new preface and an essay (funkily
titled "The Ongoing Struggles of Garlic-Hangers," inspired for once by
the otherwise annoying linguist John McWhorter). More important, this
expansive format has allowed Mr.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book itself is an excellent reference, as many reviews attest. I own an older edition in hardcover and thought that a Kindle edition would be a great convenience but I am very disappointed. The only way to navigate this e-book is to page through it from the letter of the alphabet nearest the entry sought. To find the entry for "Oxymorons," for example, the reader must use the link to the letter P in the table of contents and page backward through the entries under "O." To find "Obscurity" one would start at "O" and page forward. Sometimes a word search is faster, but it is still cumbersome. The frustration increases if the reader wants to follow a reference within one entry to another. The boldface references, alas, are not links.

The greatest disadvantage to Kindle books is being forced to purchase blind. It is possible to "look inside" the print editions of most books; there is a real need for an analogous preview of electronic editions.
4 Comments 62 of 71 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is Bryan Garner's third edition of his already classic Modern American Usage, and it has an enhancement that makes it his best yet. He rates usages by stages to inform the user how widespread each has become. Thus, if you are wondering whether "factoid" in the sense of "an interesting bit of trivia" is so widely used as to be accepted as standard, he will let you know. Purists, of course, would quibble, because adding "oid" to a word "generally denotes a resemblance to something but not the thing itself." I wouldn't consider sitting before a keyboard ready to write for school or a living without this reference within easy reach. My entire department turns to it as the final word on punctuation, pronunciation, grammar, and a fascinating exploration into the derivation of the words and phrases we use to communicate.
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