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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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The Elephants of Style : A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English + Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them + Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (March 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071422684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071422680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"What Walsh calls his 'curmudgeon's stylebook' contains such useful items as differentiating names of peoples ...His 'gray areas' are stimulating." -- William Safire, On Language, New York Times Magazine

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

I'm a newspaper copy editor, at The Washington Post since 1997, and the author of "Lapsing Into a Comma," "The Elephants of Style" and "Yes, I Could Care Less."

You can find me at www.theslot.com or on Twitter as @TheSlot.


Customer Reviews

Better refer to my copy of "Elephants of Style" now.....
Julie Jordan Scott
Like his previous work, Lapsing Into a Comma, this entertaining and enlightening book shows Walsh has got a great ear and a great sense of humor.
Amazon Customer
My wife wanted to get in to writing more and this book has significantly helped her grammar in her writing efforts.
Bryan Van De Rostyne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on March 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found myself laughing out loud as I read Bill Walsh's "The Elephant's of Style."
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.....
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Selby on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought this might be similar to Patricia O'Conner's wonder Woe Is I which I use with my college writing students. But it is not. It is really more like an easier-to-approach Chicago Manual of Style. In other words for those who get easily intimidated by the Chicago style manual, this is much more "user friendly." And, like Dr. O'Conner, the author does not fall into the traps of absolutely ridiculous rules that are perpetuated by so many writing teachers and so many textbooks. For example, he takes to task those who say one can never begin a sentence with "and" or "but." And all those other ridiculous rules that no good writer adheres to. It is a great book. Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stosh on December 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
For those of us who have trouble blindly accepting short declarative rules about grammar and style; here's a guy who doesn't just relate HIS positions on the subject, he explains WHY he holds those positions. Within this framework you will learn that many of the grammar-rules, which are often presented as hard facts by others, are actually quite squishy.

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" :-)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Denis Da Rocha Xavier on December 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Although I don't agree one hundred percent with Mr Walsh--and I am sure he would be glad to know that I don't--his book deserves top marking for its thoroughness. The book is full of witticisms that make it a good read and almost convince us that Bill Walsh is always right, even though his arguments are always very well fundamented. But as for me, I will continue saying that I have "a healthy diet" instead of "a healthful one", and pronouncing "short-lived" with a short "i" instead of a long one.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Danielle N. Swanson on March 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Almost nothing is as boring as learning the rules of grammar.

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James S. Carter on October 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like this book! I find it more useful that the classical Elements of Style by Strunk & White in that it lists a great many words that tend to be misused in modern times and explains more clearly the use of commas.

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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Richard O'brien on December 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elephants of Style, the play on the title of Strunk and White's famous book aside, is an essential for any writer as well as any one who cares about where the English language is headed.

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.
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