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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 1998
Wensberg's revision of Follett's famous guide is essential for anyone concerned with the clarity, style, and literacy of their writing.
An essential complement to a dictionary and grammar primers, a usage guide addresses the finer points of use and misuse of words, style, clarity, and grammar issues. For example, when should you use intensive or intense? What are common mistakes writers make with a, an, and the? What is the proper way to pronounce length?
Somewhat similar to Fowler's famous usage guide, Follett's is an outstanding and essential guide. I find Follett's guide much more readable than Fowler's (The New Fowler's Modern English Usage). Also, Fowler's has a British spin to it (Fowler's English Usage vs. Follet's American Usage).
Fowler's is more in-depth and covers more words, but with much denser and technical text. Follet's can be read for fun; Fowler's strikes me as more of a reference text.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 1998
An enjoyable book. Erik Wensberg is a master stylist and his remarks on good and bad writing are often amusing and always helpful. Given the quality of the writing, it would be fun to read the book sequentially, but a wonderful system of cross-referencing draws one pleasurably here and there, from "collateral damage" to "euphemisms", and from there to "forbidden words," or "vogue words" like "window of opportunity" or "the suffix -BASHING (corporation-bashing / mother-bashing) [which] makes melodrama of a slighting remark." Comparing Wensberg with Follett, one admires W's editorial imagination and his respect for the "original." In his Preface, he writes that he has "judged every entry in the original text for its value to the present-day reader, omitting some entries, shortening others, and adding a good many new ones [...] Malaprops being as quick to sprout as weeds, I have gathered a new crop to put with the old." This is a marvelous book!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2003
First I must disagree with the reviewer who calls a noun followed by an apostrophe and an "s" a possessive noun. There is room for legitimate argument here, and I prefer to call such a word a possessive adjective. To me it is far more adjective than noun and so the noun part of it can't be an antecedent for a later pronoun. Therefore, I agree with what the reviser of Follett's book says rather than with what he does. Another man, who was once an English professor at Ohio State (Corbett, I think), and for all I know may be there still, also frowns heavily on the use of a possessive noun or possessive adjective as an antecedent. One must simply find a way to reconstruct passages that tempt one to break this commandment.
I once read Follett's book from cover to cover. The man (not he) was an elegant writer. Nowadays I dip into it to refresh my memory and to find passages to use as arguments in pointing out the writing faults of others.
Description is a fine thing, but I'm a member of the prescriptive school and so am perfectly happy with Follett's edicts. When several people are working together to produce a single book or series of books, they must all be following the same path.
My only objection to Follett's book is the lack of an index. His section titles are not always straightforward or descriptive, so some things are hard to find.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2006
As one who thinks it necessary to own every major English usage manual from Fowler on, I here state the firm opinion that Follett is the best of the reasonably contemporary examples and second only to Fowler. Follett is more erudite, more complete (not more comprehensive, I grant), and more analytical than the rest. (Yes, Bryan, this means you). For example, compare his treatment of the indefensible "in terms of" to any other.

Someone speaks here of "disagreeing" with Follett's remarks on prescriptivism. Well, if you're not a prescriptivist then you oughtn't be reading usage manuals, and if you are one yet still disagree, you'd better find arguments more persuasive than his.

Another critic says Follett isn't terribly useful as a quick

how-to guide. Well, true, but the genuine articles never are.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2013
This book is the classic American answer to Fowler, and isn't really very "modern" anymore. It was first published in 1966 (three years after Follett died: the manuscript was completed by Barzun) and then updated and revised in 1998 -- fifteen years gone by. Like Fowler's, this book focuses on the usage of individual words, arranged in alphabetical order, but also discusses broader topics. Very helpful as a reference, and delightful browsing. It is fiercely prescriptive in tone, but then that is what a usage guide is supposed to be.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This is a very handy book. Some will have different views of the guidance this book provides, but for the general writer this book can be very helpful. There is an essay in the back: "On Usage, Pedantry, Grammar, and the Orderly Mind". The more you agree with this essay the more you will like this book. And the more you find yourself disagreeing with the essay you will find yourself disliking this book.
It is organized in a way that looks like a dictionary, but you may or may not be using the same word or phrase as the book to find a specific topic. So, there is an Inventory of Main Entries in the front of the book you can quickly scan to find what you are looking for and then turn to that term in the main part of the book.
There is a lot of personal preference in deciding whether you like Fowler or Follett and which edition of either of them you choose. But I think any of them is better than struggling on your own. Even if you disagree with the book's recommendations you will have made a more informed choice. You will find your writing more confident and more clear. Isn't that enough?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2013
I sent this volume to a language student in India. It is really indispensable to
anyone writing in American English.
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on May 26, 2015
"Modern American Usage" ought be required reading in college. And by that I mean it ought to be read as a book, from cover to cover. It's quite insightful and entertaining.

Are there mistakes as some reviewers have pointed out? Yes. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It still stands as the standard reference for usage of English spoken in America.
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on March 8, 2015
Quick shipping, book is in new.condition as advertised, and with a beautiful binding at that!
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on February 7, 2015
A classic referenced by most newer writers. Somewhat prescriptivist but useful reasoning.
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