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The Elephants of Style : A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English Paperback – March 12, 2004
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From the Back Cover
A thorough, and thoroughly entertaining, guide to writing like the pros
What do writers and editors mean when they talk about style? Sometimes they mean formatting for consistency and clarity. (Is it Texas or Tex. or TX? One space or two after a period?) Sometimes they mean correctness in spelling, grammar, word usage and punctuation. (A historic or an historic? The data is or the data are?) And sometimes they mean style as in stylishness. (Bright and breezy or just-the-facts-ma'am? Is that cute little idea fresh and original or tired and silly?) Inside, you'll find answers that will add polish and sparkle to your writing.
In the word-nerd classic Lapsing Into a Comma, Bill Walsh of the Washington Post entertained, educated and enlightened writers, editors, students and language lovers with commonsense guidelines and opinionated commentary on American English in the computer age. In The Elephants of Style he takes a step back and presents an in-depth look at the basics, including spelling, capitalization, abbreviations, subject-verb agreement, plurals and possessives.
With sometimes acerbic wit, the author also addresses:
- The lies your English teacher told you.
- Balancing the traditional ("Once wrong, always wrong") with the progressive ("Everybody does it") as language continues to evolve.
- How and why major publications differ in their handling of basic spelling, capitalization and punctuation issues.
- How empathy between writers and editors can make writing better.
The Elephants of Style includes a continuation of The Curmudgeon's Stylebook, Walsh's A-to-Z glossary of style matters big and small, guaranteed to address questions that no other usage manuals cover. Is Starbucks a coffee shop? Is it porn or porno?
More About the Author
You can find me at www.theslot.com or on Twitter as @TheSlot.
Top Customer Reviews
Reminiscent of "Woe is I" this title actually entertains as it enlightens. Some of Walsh's best lines were "Split infinitives are the chicken cacciatore of the English Language" and "Who died and left me in charge of the English language?"
I want to know where Bill Walsh was when I was being drilled in grammar back in school! First they started teaching kids phonics and blends using fun songs and hand motions and now this?! I missed out on all the fun!
I especially enjoyed the section entitled "The Lies Your English Teacher Told You: Big Myths of English Usage" (I actually wiped my brow at one point in that chapter.) His appendix, "The Curmudgeon's Stylebook" is a valuable addition as well.
Wonderful stuff, easy to remember and apply.... Excellent for those who got stuck in the "grammar rules" and "strict critiques" from the past.... Free up the negative through process and just get through to the mechanics in this user friendly guide. The index will take you straight to your area of interest and then read the rest just `cause its so darn fun...... oh, I wonder if it's against the rules to insert periods in a row like that?
Better refer to my copy of "Elephants of Style" now.....
This author is not so arrogant as to think he can simply relate his opinions as a list of facts. Instead, he feels the need to justify his opinions. In explaining his justification for a given style-rule, he enlightens us, and gives us the understanding we need to draw our own conclusions. Those conclusions almost always agree with his, but with the added understanding comes the confidence to break rules we normally agree with, if that's what the situation calls for...
..."Or" should I say: "if it is that for which the situation calls" :-)
The Elephants of Style, however, makes the subject humorous and easier to both read and learn about. The author uses great(and often funny ) examples to teach students about everything from parts of speech to plagarism. I would recommend this book to college freshman, English teachers, or anyone struggling with grammar.
Of course, grammar may never lose the title of "boringest of them all," but at least there is a little humor at the end of the tunnel.
The advice in this book is outstanding for news reporting but cannot be used for preparing an article for publication in a scientific journal because, at least for this one reason, of the advice on acceptable usages of "data" as a singular noun (it's not. No exceptions) and I didn't notice any advice to string together a convoluted maximum entanglement of words in a rambling sentence of forbidding length for the purpose of saving space.
The author includes some pertinent differences in usages described other newspapers' style guides so that the reader can judge what's best for his or her intended forum.
One really can't go wrong with a book from Bill Walsh. I wish I could say at least one thing negatively about this book, but I can't.
If you haven't purchased this book do so soon. There was so much I learned here and even now I'm not following one rule that Walsh suggests, but I am a creature of habit and old habits, as they say, die hard. There I did it. Now, purchase Bill Walsh's book and see what I'm talking about.
See also Walsh's Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them. You will be glad you did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's a surprisingly easy read for a book about grammar, and I actually read the whole thing, cover to cover. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Kristin
The title is clever but that's about all. I'll stick with Strunk & White.Published 3 months ago by The Professor
Worthwhile read on the vagaries of English; a useful style guide.Published 6 months ago by Thomas C. Tucker
Bill Walsh's stylebook, a parody of other stylebooks, is a fun guide to sensible writing. Here's Walsh's rule for beginning sentences with conjunctions: "Starting a sentence... Read morePublished 8 months ago by 5FingersPianomanJoe
I've been going through this book very thoroughly, because 1) I am a copy editor and 2) I don't have always enough to do so I'm creating an abbreviated version to be referred to on... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Monette L. Bebow Reinhard
It's clever; however, it contains many opinions rather than rules of English. I disagree with several. He insists upon [.4 ounces] while I insist upon [.4 ounce]. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Peter Boyum
Just finished reading this highly useful book for writers. An easy and interesting read, with some subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor tucked into corners. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Richard L. Nielsen