Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, Second Edition 2nd Edition

156 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1594480065
ISBN-10: 1594480060
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The second edition of O'Connor's delightful guide to good English offers a new chapter on e-mail etiquette that ought to make many people-even grammar snobs-feel a tad guilty: "E-mail," she writes, "is no excuse for lousy English." Let your audience determine your attention to tone and mechanics; use salutations and signatures; resist the urge to indiscriminately forward mail; and leave those emoticons and abbreviations at home, she says. Commonsense stuff-but every once in a while, it's nice to be reminded. The rest of the volume is similar to the first: witty, economical and fun to read, it explains the secrets to grammar in refreshingly jargon-free sentences illustrated by numerous examples ("'I assure you,' said the grieving widow, 'I ensured he was insured to the hilt'"). When is "majority" plural, and when singular? How does saying "Trixie loves spaghetti more than I?" mean something completely different than "Trixie loves spaghetti more than me?" While the volume is certainly handy to someone struggling with grammar basics-there are few style guides so breezy-the "Verbal Abuse" section will appeal to language experts and purists, especially those who decry the use of partner as a verb, or grow with a direct object (as in "grow the business"). As for those who like to use dialogue as a verb, "Don't talk to them," O'Connor says.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Woe Is I is great fun. -- Susan Isaacs
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; 2nd edition (June 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594480060
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594480065
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 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!
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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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