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Gwynne's Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English Hardcover – September 2, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[A] sprightly handbook . . . The examples are lively, the advice direct and confident. Some of it, once heard, won’t be forgotten . . . Gwynne’s certainty is infectious. When it comes to matters of language, people want order, clarity, and wit, not mushiness . . . The coercions of political correctness sway him not at all, and the sentimentality that urges us to respect the will and creativity of individuals, especially children, is altogether ousted . . . Therein lies the pleasure of the text. Not only does it reject the liberalization of usage, it counterattacks.”
—Mark Bauerlein, First Things

“Mr. Gwynne is unflinchingly, unapologetically rear-guard . . . The personality of its author is not the least attraction of Gwynne’s Grammar . . . [a book] with not the least wisp of dumbing-down in his composition . . . [He] does not deny that grammar can be hellishly complicated . . . [and] his definitions – terse, logical, precise – are among the best things in the book . . . I feel a certain elegance in what I have been taught and still take to be correct English.”
—Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

[Gwynne] is more in the mold of an 18th- or 19th-century grammarian than a modern-day prescriptivist . . . [His appeal ] has been less about the rules themselves and more about his ability to invoke pre-1960s, cold-shower rigor . . . For hundreds of years, English-speakers have reveled in scolding each other and being scolded about language . . . In another century someone may be quoting Gwynne with equal fondness, while our great-grandchildren take pleasure in getting scolded all over again… Gwynne’s Grammar has its undeniable pleasures.”
—Britt Peterson, The Boston Globe

“Warm and utterly self-assured . . . Refreshingly opinionated . . . [Gwynne] is an unashamed prescriptivist . . . [and his] judgment is unambiguous . . . It doesn’t matter how many academic linguists tell us that language changes over time . . . Educated people still want to know whether they should write ‘amuck’ or ‘amok,’ ‘between’ or ‘among’.”
—Barton Swaim, The Weekly Standard

“Dynamite to modern, child-centered education: a guide to the forgotten rudiments of the English Language.”
—Elizabeth Grice, Daily Telegraph
 
“Curious and brilliant . . . it is wonderful that his crisp, lucid book has at last been embraced by the many.”
—Charles Moore, The Spectator
 
“Witty, engaging and highly educational stuff.”
Times Educational Supplement
 
“A very useful, pertinent summary and it deserves both to be used and enjoyed.”
—Tony Little, head master, Eton College
 
“Invaluable.”
Writing Magazine

About the Author

In the 1980s, on retirement from a successful career as a businessman in London and Australia N.M. Gwynne gradually took up teaching, at first privately. He soon found that he had a clear vocation and he discovered a real demand for his traditional methods, universal up to the 1960s but since displaced by new-fangled theories of learning. And so Mr Gwynne began to ply his trade in classrooms and lecture halls teaching a diverse range of subjects: English, Latin, Greek, French, German, mathematics, history, classical philosophy, natural medicine, the elements of music, even "How to start and run your own business." Now with an international word-of-mouth reputation, Mr Gwynne has been flown around the world in order to teach his pupils privately. And thanks to the Internet and Skype, he has sometimes found himself, within a single day's time, teaching children and adults in India, in Europe and the western United States.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Reprint edition (September 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038535293X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385352932
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Walker VINE VOICE on July 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let us ignore for the moment that this book is essentially a plagiarized copy of William Strunk's 1918 Elements of Style and strive to look past the author's audacity to his aspirations. If you are inclined to agree with Mr. Gwynne that preservation of the English language is necessary to keep Western Civilization from destroying itself, then you may find (as I did) that his voice lends a passion to the text in the same way that an evangelist can enliven a dry part of the Old Testament. For me, then, a weary soul fearful of a generation raised on acronyms and autocorrect, four stars.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mike Byrne VINE VOICE on July 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Have you seen the way school children hold their pens or pencils these days? It is as if they are holding a dagger. Have you read what these children write? It is as if they had just plunged that dagger into your back. (That is… if you love the English language.)

N. M. Gwynne is doing his best to rescue us from this tragedy but I fear he is too late. Teachers today are opposed to teaching grammar, preferring to leave the development of language skills to the innate brilliance of their students, and often pointing out that languages change; and the only languages that don’t change are the dead languages…Latin, Classical Greek etc. The good professor points out to these folks that except for the addition of new words to the English vocabulary, the English language has remained pretty much unchanged for several hundred years. This is quite true and quite extraordinary. It permits the people who are living today to read and understand and appreciate the writing and lives of people who lived in the past. And a language that can achieve that deserves our deep respect.

I had previously owned a copy of “Gwynne’s Latin.” I fear that copy is lost. But I located a wonderful video of professor Gwynne on Tu Tubus. (“You Tube” for those of you who don’t speak Latin.) It shows the professor teaching Latin to a wonderful group of young people in a school somewhere in the U.K. He is an old fashioned disciplinarian: the “Memorize, memorize, memorize” type. And the students love it. I am convinced, having gone through this kind of formal instruction myself as a child, that this is the best way to teach.

However, there appears to be a new dispensation which is about to change all that.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rawim on August 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My job has started to require more narrative style reports from me. Which requires I start using those grammar muscles that have not been exercised since college. I thought the Gwynne’s guide would be very helpful to have on my desk as a reference. Now I was thinking this guide was going to be more of a grammar reference book, but I find it is more of book to read to brush up on all of your grammar at once. It is not really organize din a way that makes it effective for reference but rather for study. The first portion of the book giving a great overview of grammar like parts of speech and syntax, and the second half referring to verse prose and style in general. The writing is very easy to understand and the concepts are well explained. The copy I have is a prerelease copy so I can’t comment on the final books layout, but suffice to say the content is rock solid. After reading through the book I know my writing has improved (For reports at least, maybe not my reviews) and I know many people that could benefit from a look through this book. So if you need an adult reintroduction to grammar this is a great place to start. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer it.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Hopp VINE VOICE on August 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have taught college English for a while now (since 1976), usually having a section of freshman writing mixed in with other classes. Most of the usage/grammar books that have come under my consideration are descriptive in purpose, meaning that they base their rules on how people write rather than on a set of fixed rules passed down from teacher to teacher. Mr. Gwynne's approach is prescriptive, meaning that grammar works better with certain right-and-wrong assumptions in place about usage and style. Know some rules, in other words. I didn't think I would like that approach, since I feel that language is a living thing and flexibility is good and all that--as does Mr. Gwynne, I should think--but I actually found his tack quite refreshing. It's also nice to pick up some terms I didn't know (defining clause, commenting clause, bracketing commas) since people who enjoy grammar often like knowing what other teachers call things in case it works better than what you've been using (or just sounds more technical and thus earns you more front-of-the-room cred).

Mr. Gwynne seems not to object to the abstract possessive (he writes, for example, "the genitive's S"), a position that makes me feel good since one of my seminar papers long ago in grad school had the phrase "the poem's imagery" circled along with a terminal comment about how the professor found such usage "odd and distracting." I immediately thought of "the nation's capital" and other uses of abstract possessives. Anyway, the prepublication copy of Mr. Gwynne's book lacks the forthcoming index, so I do not know for sure if the author addresses this topic directly. My selective reading of his handbook over some weeks now did not turn up such a passage.
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