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Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English Paperback – August 1, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-1573226257 ISBN-10: 1573226254 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573226254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573226257
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Written by Patricia T. O'Conner, an editor at the New York Times Book Review, Woe Is I gives lighthearted, witty instruction on the subject most of us dreaded in school--grammar. Discussion is brief and concise, and much more engaging than the grammar books you may remember. With chapter titles such as "Woe is I: Therapy for Pronoun Anxiety," "Your Truly: The Possessive and the Possessed," "Verbal Abuse: Words on the Endangered List," "Comma Sutra; The Joy of Punctuation," and "Death Sentence: Do Cliches Deserve to Die?," O'Conner proves that even grammar can make for entertaining reading. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This grammar book has a twist?it's fun. O'Connor, a copy editor and book reviewer for the New York Times and guest columnist for William Safire, gives readers a witty and humorous look at grammar and the oddities of the English language in a way that doesn't intimidate or bore the reader. Chapter headings offer such gems as "Plurals Before Swine," "Comma Sutra," and "The Compleat Dangler." And what makes this book such a pleasure to read are whoppers of sloppy usage such as "Born at the age of forty three, the baby was a great comfort to Mrs. Wooster" and cliches like "mass exodus. As opposed to an exodus of one? In most cases, exodus alone is enough." Highly recommended.?Lisa J. Cihlar, Winfield P.L., Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Patricia T. O'Conner, a former editor at The New York Times Book Review, has written five books about the English language--the bestselling Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English; Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language (with Stewart Kellerman); Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing; Woe Is I Jr.: The Younger Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English; and You Send Me: Getting It Right When You Write Online (with Stewart Kellerman).

Customer Reviews

This book is funny, informative, and makes learning very fun and easy.
T. B. Vick
Its always useful to have some kind of grammar book lying around so that if you forget something you can look it up again, or read it again for a review.
T. Duong
Patricia O'Conner's book about the fundamentals of English grammar is both down-to-earth and fun to read.
JLind555

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've owned WOE IS I for many months now. It never crossed my mind that someone could be misled by the title; in fact, that's what attracted me to it in the first place. I just skimmed over several of the recent reviews at this site and I'm appalled at the prissy comments about the author's "authority". Well, if this country has any standards left with respect to grammar and usage, I'm betting you can find them at the New York Times. That's where Ms. O'Conner learned her trade, and that's a good enough recommendation for me. This book is useful in my line of work - social science research - week in and week out. I HIGHLY recommend it to all types - students, business people, and anyone else who wants to say what they mean.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on February 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Grammar and fun. How odd those two words look in such close proximity to each other. Granted, Fowler can be amusing at times, particularly when he's in full peevish mode and attired in full curmudgeonly armor. Mencken certainly summons up a fairly regular chuckle, when dealing with topics related to English/American usage.
But if you're like me, you tend to gloss over those exceptions and hearken back to 9th and 10th grade English classes, featuring Messrs. Strunk & White, supplemented by the latest book of torture published by McGraw Hill, with an exercise book on top of that. Ugh!
I wish now that Ms. O'Conner's witty, 227 pg. text had been available at that time and that I would have had English teachers enlightened enough to use it, even if only as a supplement.
"Woe is I" is a pleasure to read. She accomplishes that rare deed of sallying forth against the convulsive, recalcitrant, obfuscating, hydra-headed monster that is English Grammar and actually coming out of the battle victorious.
She accomplishes this through sheer force of wit. This is not your typical handbook of style, as you might glean from reading over the sample pages. That will give you an idea of the charm and humor that Ms. O'Conner brings to bear on various grammatical bugaboos. Some of my favorite examples: "Back to the drawing board. 'Back to Roget's Thesaurus.'" "Agree to disagree. 'People never really agree to disagree. They just get tired of arguing.'" "Bite the bullet. 'Save your teeth.'"
This book is helpful, no matter what your level of English proficiency. I recommend it to students, writers, lovers of language, Reference book junkies, word-freaks, ESL teachers, English teachers, teachers in other disciplines who need help in grading papers or to anyone else who wants to brush up his/her grammar.
BEK
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the only grammar book I've seen that's written in plain English. You don't have to know a single technical term to understand it. It's amazing how Ms. O'Conner can explain such complicated things as subjunctives or dangling modifiers in simple language that anyone can understand.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Patricia O'Conner has produced a jewel of a book in `Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English'. Perhaps the greatest strength in the book is the recognition that language is ever-changing and evolving. Thus, her rules are tempered with the reality that sometimes, that which is wrong today might not be wrong tomorrow.

To those of you in the know, 'normalcy' is one of those words that (which?) is actually an improper construct, made to be a viable choice by the fact that a lofty person (in this case, I believe it was a President) used it in public.

This book is filled with tidbits of information for any who are interested in the playfulness of language. I particularly appreciate the part of the book that talks about modern trends -- that which was once improper but is no longer, and those things which might be used but are still suspect.

Amusing stories and examples are scattered about the stories -- I would that my original English grammars would have been so light-hearted and easy to read. Perhaps that is the greatest strength of this book -- that it amuses while it teaches.

It is a short book, so don't be put off by the fact that you're actually reading something of the subject 'grammar', and be relieved to know that even the best of authors succumb to the occasional lapse. And I have praise for the author's resistance to hyper-correctivity, i.e., the tendency to correct oneself or others when the correction adds nothing to the meaning and questionable value in construction.

As Winston Churchill said, 'there are some things up with which I shall not put!
Read more ›
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful By T. B. Vick on February 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most valuable 'Grammar Texts' I have read. In fact, as I write this review, I'm hoping that what I have learned will demonstrate itself (yikes!). This book is funny, informative, and makes learning very fun and easy.
Patricia O'Connor demonstrates the proper use of verbs, pronouns, plurals, how to write with ease, avoiding split infinitives, etc. Essentially everything one needs to know about the elements of the English language are in this text. Moreover, O'Connor's neat remedies and jokes make learning very fun. O'Connor emphasizes punctuation, verbal usage and misuse of certain words, especially certain verbs which often get confused (i.e. 'lay' and 'lie'). There is a lot in this book that is valuable to writers, students, and anyone who simply wants to sharpen their grammar skills.
If you have been wanting a book that is not your typical grammar text, then this book is for you. I highly recommend this book!
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