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on January 27, 1999
It's a real shame what has become of this book in revision. The original was a tiny collection of wonderful sentences, with the occasional dry rule of punctuation pretending to ride herd over the lot. Much of the humor came from the interplay between these two, like a straight man setting up his partner for a punchline. In the expanded version, the discussion of punctuation rules runs along for paragraphs and pages, and has gotten too clever for its own good. The delightful examples, who used to hold center stage, now get lost in the commotion. This is probably much more useful by way of instruction, but the original's simple charm is nowhere to be found. Maybe you'll want to own both.
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on December 2, 2001
First, I sadly confess that I much prefer the earlier edition of this book. I can't really tell exactly what has been added to this edition, except to acknowledge that it is longer. The beauty of the first book was that after you looked up whatever you needed to look up, you couldn't put it down. The book still has the same effect, but with a more compelling sense that you really ought to put it down because you have something better to do. I suspect that what has been added is mere "filler": stuff to puff the book up so that people won't mind paying more for it.
Nonetheless, this still is the best manual of form to have. It is so remarkably clear, that a textbook review committee would probably wonder whether some mistake had been made. Simply look up the punctuation mark in question in the clearly labeled table of contents, and your question will be answered in no time. Better yet, reserve a Sunday afternoon to read the book cover to cover, and never have a punctuation question again.
Yes, I did say read it cover to cover. Ms. Gordon has done for manuals of grammar what Dorothy Parker did for book reviews, or Judith Martin does for etiquette. This is quite an enjoyable romp with cross-eyed scholar-poets, that prima donna [Too-Too LaBlanca], and Torquil and Jonquil, (who will accompany you to the spa on Epiphany, if you accompany them to Ornette Coleman's recital afterwards [sic]).
So I must admit, even though I don't think the second edition is any improvement over the first, I still think this book is miles beyond any other of its kind. You may wish to have a more complete manual of style, as this book covers punctuation only, but you will still benefit from having this book. A complete manual of style will devote only a few pages to punctuation, and give few examples; its instructions will never be clear. With The Well-Tempered Sentence by your side, however, you will never punctuate incorrectly again.
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Since its publication, I have given literally several dozen copies of this splendid, amusingly informative book to friends, to fellow writers, to students, and to anyone with either a passion for language or problems with grammar. It is unique in its wonderfully Gothic approach to conveying the odd and sometimes illogical rules of English grammar. It is also just plain fun. Absolutely a must for anyone even the least bit confused about just where a semi-colon goes, or when to use serial commas. Along with the Rodale Synonym Finder and the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, this is a book that lives next to my desk--always. Top marks! There's absolutely nothing, anywhere, that comes near this charming, clever little language guide.
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on September 21, 1997
In _The New Well-Tempered Sentence_, Karen Elizabeth Gordon acts as arbiter elegantiae of punctuation. If she is less cheerfully infallible than Fowler, she is also more of an artist of English. Ms. Gordon has great fun playing with the language, and readers are invited to share in the merriment. The first two sentences of her chapter on commas speak for themselves:

"A comma is a delicate kink in time, a pause within a sentence, a chance to catch your breath. A curvaceous acrobat, it capers over the page."

You'll be entertained with examples haunted by a bizarre cast of characters going about their strange and Gothic business.

Keep it on your reference shelf, somewhere between William Zinsser's _On Writing Well_ and Strunk and White's _The Elements of Style_.
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on April 29, 2002
I first purchased this wonderfully entertaining handbook in the mid 1980s when I had my own word processing business. This little book is worth its weight in gold and then some. I can always count on finding the correct usage in this book where other reference books have failed or have skirted over an issue entirely. An excellent reference book, The Well-Tempered Sentence is a delightful read as well. It's a must have for any reference library! Once you read this book, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll never be without it, and you'll recommend it to strangers in the street (or at least your friends and associates).
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on November 11, 2002
I purchased this book for an online class on grammar and punctuation. The book is an excellent resource for punctuation. It succinctly explains when to use each form of punctuation and has many examples.
However, the examples are all bizarre sentences that make sense grammatically but not necessarily in reality, such as, "After this string of scurrilous anecdotes, she sprinkled the lawn with pearls." Even passages that are identified as footnotes can be bizarre. "A footnote, wearin' a cowboy boot: These lyrics are sung in an amphitheater with clotheslines draped over the stage and out into the audience. Most of the time the cowboys are washing their silk teddies and underpants studded with red rhinestone hears and rhinestone-eyed cows, and hanging them to dry."
The sentences are used as a stylistic device to make the book less like a grammar textbook and more interesting to read. That is an admirable goal, when it comes to a book on punctuation, but the device is used to excess.
The book also contains many illustrations, described by the front jacket as "whimsical graphics." They seem intended to give the book a Gothic look. Being somewhat conventional, I did not like the fact that the majority of captions had nothing to do with the images; instead, they were just odd sentences. Also, between this book and the author's grammar guide, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, there are an awful lot of pictures of naked, or half-naked, women, bordering on gratuitousness.
My complaints aside, I do not doubt the author's command of the rules of punctuation. This book does an excellent job of describing the proper use of punctuation. I have consulted it several times while writing this review to answer questions like "Is a restrictive adjective clause set off by commas?" I am keeping The New Well-Tempered Sentence as a reference book in my library.
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on February 3, 2004
From the author of "The Deluxe Transitive Vampire" and "Torn Wings and Faux Pas" comes another humorous reference for remembering and learning proper punctuation. This edition is a revised edition of "The Well-Tempered Sentence" and adds guidelines for dealing with those pesky apostrophes, slashes, and italics.
Although I love reading about the escapades of Loona and have recommended this book to others, this book is not for everyone. If large or uncommon words frighten you, then you will be frightened by this book. Even if I tell students that once you are used to the language, this book is great, many don't want to take the time to acclimatize themselves. This is a shame because this is a great book.
If only more grammar books were a treat to read! I would highly recommend adding this book to your reference collection or taking the time to refresh your punctuation skills.
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on May 23, 2016
I love this book. It covers the rules of punctuation in a simple and clear style with charming, often amusing examples. It's a great book for adults who need help with their grammar but don't want to wade through something that looks like a school textbook, and I've given it to younger students as well. As a side note, I don't see any reason why you need the new edition, as the old one works fine if you have it; that review is for the book as whole, not just the rewrite
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on October 19, 2015
Fun read. Karen Elizabeth Gordon makes grammar and syntax interesting stuff and easy to learn. I find the way she writes in a light banter attractively fresh and thus I remember it. She helps me cover a lot of ideas quickly.
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on October 22, 2013
This book was recommended by a friend who's an editor. She guaranteed I'd enjoy it, and I certainly do.

Punctuation and other writing rules can be oh so tedious, but not so for Ms. Gordon's manual. I find myself laughing frequently while reading it. The sentences are constructed in such a way as to chisel themselves in one's mind, simply because of their enjoyable wording. Two of my favorites: for exclamation points, "How exciting to see you in traction again!"; and when demonstrating the use of the comma for salutation and serial items, "Dear Rosie and Nimrod, Thank you for the hospitality, the cold bath water, the stale beer, and everything."

Don't even get me started on the wardrobe composed in part of water moccasins and a spring-loaded girdle.
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