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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
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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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 1997
Format: Hardcover
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
This was required reading for a grammar class, and it was not what I would choose as a good reference. The author tries to be different, quirky, or elite with the styles of grammar and their rules; it just comes off as a confusing mess. Yes, there is a table of contents so that you can zip along to the chapter involving comma's and such, but what you get is about 3-4 pages of examples (not always very good ones) of the usage. I appreciate the author is trying to simplify by writing a short book with all of the pertinent rules presented, but to me, it is just not enough of a reference. I almost feel as if I have to got back and skim through a "blog post" to get the correct usage. So you better remember it, or you will be searching through this one. I much prefer The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It is a much cheaper and timeless reference.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book has been invaluable in my job as an English tutor. The examples make students sit up and take notice, and teaches them new words besides. While many books of similar nature bore the reader to tears with simple subjects and verbs, Ms Gordon allows herself to get carried away--and in a good way, I'd argue. To really internalize rules, students need to sit up and pay attention--and being entertained in the bargain seems a good deal to me. My students can turn to whatever chapter they need (commas and semi-colons are big favorites) and find excellent, concrete, amusing examples of both what they can and ought not do.

I reckon this book will be most engaging for those with a love of language and new words and general joy. Those looking for a traditional punctuation tome ought to look elsewhere--although it seems a shame to me, frankly. Anyone can be boring while explaining commas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As an English teacher, I agree with the reviews that express dismay at Ms. Gordon's idiosyncratic application of traditional grammar rules. However, the handbook's examples, illustrations, and dry wit make it a much more palatable resource for the teenagers I teach than the musty handbooks provided by my district. Those who find interesting the vagaries of the English language's structure will be charmed.
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