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The Accidents of Style: Good Advice on How Not to Write Badly Paperback – July 20, 2010
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Language expert Elster, the author of What in the Word? (2005), among many other titles, returns to the scene with this guide to common writing mistakes. Comparing auto crashes to accidents of style, Elster aims to make writers “wreckless” by providing a “crash course” in careful usage. The 350 mistakes he cites, which he labels “accidents,” run the gamut from traditional grammatical errors (when to use who and whom) to common mistakes (confusion between i.e. and e.g.) to welcome advice (avoid please be advised that, especially at the beginning of a letter). Although Elster tends to run his automotive metaphors into the ground, his explanations of usage errors are clear and frequently entertaining (see there is no ex- in espresso). Because the entries are not arranged alphabetically, the guide seems best suited to browsers, although destination-oriented language seekers can use the index to track solutions. Sensible advice for both aspiring writers and word lovers. --Joanne Wilkinson
“Charles Elster shines a bright light on 350 major potholes, pitfalls, and pratfalls that pock the road of writing. His sage advice on how to avoid writing badly points the reader in the direction of a smoother journey toward writing well.” ―Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English and The Write Way
“This book is perfect for people who want to take their prose from the pothole-filled side streets to the Autobahn. You'll learn how to avoid errors, barbarisms, redundancies, and other drags on your style. It's an essential addition to any language lover's collection. After I read it, I felt like I'd just had my writing engines tuned by a master mechanic. The Accidents of Style is essential for anyone who's serious about the written word.” ―Martha Brockenbrough, author of Things That Make Us (Sic)
“The Accidents of Style is eminently readable. And if you're one of us who can't always remember the difference between eminently and imminently--and more than 350 other thorny usage questions--you'll want to buy it and keep it near. It is useful, nuanced--and funny, too.” ―Constance Hale, author of Sin and Syntax
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1) I can not tell you how helpful the book accidents of style was to me. 2) It had a positive affect on me. 3) I have been meaning to write a review for awhile but I waited ‘til I had more time. 4) My English usage, I thought was alright until I read this book and realized it wasn’t my forté. 5) In fact and it goes without saying, when I realized how many errors I make I was nauseous with the understanding. 6) I felt a change coming, I decided to hone in on my own personnel accidents of style. 7) I read the book voracious, dwelled into it’s secrets and keep it by my desk as a guide. 8) If you write alot, I would like to convince you to read this book. 9) Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you are a long ways off. 10) I promise, you won’t be bored of it!
1) Can not should be cannot. accidents of style should be capitalized and set off with commas.
2) Affect should be effect.
3) Awhile should be a while. Need a comma before but. ‘til should be till or until.
4) I thought should be set off with commas before and after. Alright should be all right. Forté should be forte.
5) In fact is unnecessary filler wording. It goes without saying is unnecessary filler wording. Nauseous should either be felt nausea or nauseated since nauseous is the property of the thing causing the sensation. i.e. nauseous cigar smell.
6) Comma splice—comma should be a period. Hone in should be home in. Personnel should be personal.
7) Voracious should be voraciously. Dwelled should be delved. It’s should be its.
8) Alot should be a lot. Would like should be want. Convince should be persuade. (Convince is when you want someone to believe something. Persuade is used when you want someone to take action.)
9) Ways should be way.
10) Bored of should be bored by or bored with. ! is unnecessary.
I did have one question for Mr. Elster: In Accident 346, instead of "I would have liked to be president" wouldn't it be at least as accurate to say "I would like to have been president"?
This is a great resource for any writer/editor, even an established one.