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How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar Paperback – July 17, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0393327236 ISBN-10: 039332723X Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332723X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327236
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There are only so many ways to denounce the double negative, and Safire hasn't discovered a new one. This slim style guide rehashes that not uncommon mistake along with 49 other equally obvious bloopers, which Safire boils down to short phrases that both illustrate and encapsulate the rule; e.g., "no sentence fragments" and "don't use contractions." Much of the text feels recycled from Safire's weekly "On Language" columns in the New York Times Magazine. A section on onomatopoeia, for example, is little more than an excuse to recount the origins of "zap." Even with such meager content, the book is repetitious, attacking more than once "the pretentious use of dead words" and outdated slang, colloquialisms and dialect. Some passages, like an account of the debate over using "he" as a universal pronoun, are long past their sell-by date. That's probably the biggest problem with this would-be stylebook: the language mavens who are Safire's core audience will find it all overfamiliar, while graduating high school students, into whose hands the book will certainly fall, may regard the author's humor as terminally unhip. Strunk and White's no-nonsense Elements of Style remains the young writer's best bet. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

William Safire, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is the most widely read writer on words. He lives in Washington, D.C.

More About the Author

William Safire began his writing career as a reporter, became a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, and re-crossed the street to write an Op-Ed column in the New York Times for the next three decades. He also wrote the weekly "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine. He was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary and the Medal of Freedom.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
In "How Not to Write: the Essential Misrules of Grammar," William Safire, nitpicker extraordinaire, wags his finger at sloppy writers. Using large doses of gentle humor, Safire introduces "fumblerules," mistakes that call attention to basic rules of grammar, usage, and style. Safire, who warns us to avoid the overuse of alliteration, calls his compilation a "ferocious farrago of instructive error," that is "designed to straighten you out without weighing you down." In fifty brief chapters, Safire wittily taps the reader on the shoulder, and, with a smile and a wink, he urges us to avoid such writing gremlins as run-ons, misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors, and improper punctuation.

This book offers little that is new for fussbudgets who already adhere to the basic rules of correct writing. Most people who write for a living or as a hobby routinely avoid double negatives, always use commas and conjunctions with care, and would never allow too many cliches to clutter their prose. For such readers, this book is not an instructional guide as much as it is an entertaining review.

"How Not to Write" will serve as a useful introduction for novices who need to sharpen their writing skills. They will learn the proper use of a semicolon, when to adopt a formal or colloquial writing style, and why euphemisms usually "deserve termination with extreme prejudice." This slim volume is not a textbook or a workbook. There is no table of contents or index, and the chapters are not organized in any obvious manner. "How Not to Write" is a painless and amusing primer by a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes a language column for the "New York Times." If you liked the bestselling book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," you will also enjoy this lighthearted look at the rules of writing by one of America's most respected wordsmiths.
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Format: Paperback
Almost none of us is a professional writer. While some of us do write on a regular basis, nearly everyone has to at least occasionally put words on paper for one reason or another. We get tense because we are unsure what to put on that very blank page. We are armed with only some vague and incomplete memories of usage rules from our school days, and we wisely don't fully trust what we remember. The idea of reading through a textbook on grammar and writing is not very appealing and going back to school for a class is impractical. What can we do to improve our writing and feel more confident in what we present to others?

William Safire is a well-known writer and authority whom many trust to pass judgment on what is fair and foul about the rules we use in our writing. He is no curmudgeon when it comes to writing and appeals more to usage, what sounds right to the ear, and what communicates the writer's meaning with verve and clarity. These little articles will help you with pesky split infinitives, punctuation, capitalization, sentence construction, participle issues, and word usage.

This book was published years ago as "Fumblerules". A fumblerule is a sentence that teaches a writing principle by being a clearly and often humorous example of breaking the rule. You immediately see why writing that way is a mistake. He has fifty column length articles here; each devoted to clarifying one rule. I enjoyed all of them and had more than a few laughs as I read through the book.

It is likely that you already know and keep most of these rules, but if you only get a more sure grip on five or ten of these rules, you will have been richly rewarded for the money you plunked down and couple of hours you spend thinking about the advice Safire provides.

Super!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Booker1 on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First-rate little book filled with erudition, wit and deep respect for good writing. The author knows how to make every word and punctuation mark count. Highly recommend to anyone who cares about writing. This book, HOW NOT TO WRITE, is, however, a re-issue of Mr. Safire's 1990 book FUMBLERULES. Both are equally good, because they are the same book. I purchased Fumblerules used here on Amazon for a tiny price. Buy the new one here, too. You'll be glad to have either version.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
William Safire, of course, is a master of the English language. In "How Not To Write," Safire attempts in a humorous way to lead the reader through the thornier thickets of grammar. To a large extent he succeeds, demonstrating proper and improper grammar throug humorous example.

A worthwhile addition to the library of anyone who writes. The only problem I see is trying to remember all the rules when you really need them . . . like when you're writing.

Jerry
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kug VINE VOICE on August 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am not into technical writing manuals and this one caught my eye as being simple, straight forward, practical and easy to read. I was not disappointed. It has short chapters, funny at times and easy to 'get it'. If you're looking for a simple book to dispense writing advice in an easy to take manner this is it.
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By shazza on April 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am really enjoying this book and it's helped me a lot with my grammar issues. It's a very fast read, I recommend it.
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By Thomas J. Couillard on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fun book for any interested is improving their writing. Mr. Safire makes the process of reviewing what you might have learned in grade school entertaining.
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