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Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style Hardcover – January 29, 2019
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From the Publisher
“Call it the hedonic appeal. Dreyer beckons readers by showing that his rules make prose pleasurable. . . . His book is in love with the toothsomeness of language. Its sentences capture writing’s physicality.”—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
“Brimming with wit and revelatory wisdom, this style manual-cum-linguistic jubilee from Random House’s copy chief . . . entertains as it enlightens.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Random House copy chief and managing editor Benjamin Dreyer is a fixture in the publishing industry and on Twitter for his authoritative yet approachable take on style and grammar. Now he is a Random House author himself. . . . Dreyer’s English [is] a helpful, funny style guide replete with supporting references from literature and popular culture.”—New York
“An utterly delightful book to read, Dreyer’s English will stand among the classics on how to use the English language properly.”—Elizabeth Strout
“A mind-blower—sure to jumpstart any writing project, just by exposing you, the writer, to Dreyer’s astonishing level of sentence-awareness.”—George Saunders
“Farewell, Strunk and White. Benjamin Dreyer’s brilliant, pithy, incandescently intelligent book is to contemporary writing what Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry was to medieval English: a gift that broadens and deepens the art and the science of literature by illustrating that convention should not stand in the way of creativity, so long as that creativity is expressed with clarity and with conviction.”—Jon Meacham
“It is Benjamin Dreyer’s intense love for the English language and his passion for the subject that make the experience of reading Dreyer’s English such a pleasure, almost regardless of the invaluable and practical purpose his book serves in such dark and confusing times for grammar and meaning.”—Ayelet Waldman & Michael Chabon
“If Oscar Wilde had wanted to be helpful as well as brilliant, if E. B. White and Noël Coward had had a wonderful little boy who grew up to cherish and model clarity, the result would be Benjamin Dreyer and his frankly perfect book. Anyone who writes anything should have a copy by their computer, and perhaps another on the nightstand, just for pleasure.”—Amy Bloom
“Dreyer’s English is essential to anyone who cares about language. It’s as smart and funny as Dreyer is himself. He makes you smile and makes you smarter at the same time.”—Lyle Lovett
“Like Dreyer himself, this book reassures as it teaches. The reader never feels spoken down to, as in so many other style guides, but is instead lifted up, inspired to communicate with more clarity and zing. I’ll be buying this for friends.”—Brian Koppelman, co-creator and showrunner of Billions
“This work is that rare writing handbook that writers might actually want to read straight through, rather than simply consult.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House (January 29, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812995708
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812995701
- Lexile measure : 1130L
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Oddly, the text is often clunky or irritating because the author too often tries to be amusing. I'm on chapter 7 and have already found some copy-editing errors (odd, since the author claims to be so attentive, and his list of thanks at the end of the book goes on for 8 pages--with this many interested parties, one would think someone would have spotted the blunders). The most annoying feature of the book relates to the footnotes: First, there are many too many and their font size is much too small; second, many of the footnotes are smart aleck and unnecessary; third, the symbols for the footnotes are tiny, tiny asterisks, crossbars, and double crossbars that are difficult to see as one is reading, with the result that, getting to the bottom of a page, one realizes there are yet more notes not read because the reader hasn't seen the minuscule symbol to which the note refers. Highly annoying and out of sync with the author's emphasis on verbal clarity and visual appropriateness.
Just read chapter 7, "The Realities of Fiction," and am becoming irritated: If we trust what's said here, most writers are oblivious and dumb. Odd that a copy editor is making such claims. One begins to realize why most copy editors never make it as writers. If you want a better recent book on writing and editing, I recommend Mary Norris's BETWEEN YOU AND ME (Norton, 2015)--clearer, more graceful, and more enticing.
It got so tiresome that I stopped reading it. Due to my laziness the Amazon return window has expired so I'm out 12 bucks.
Enter Dreyer's English.
Benjamin Dreyer is delightfully witty, but what you really care about is his deep well of experience as the copy chief for Random House. He did not stint in sharing either in this accessible, practical style guide.
He begins with a collection of useful writing advice on clarity (including five words—well, six really—you can probably do without), rules and hobgoblins (why it’s perfectly fine to start a sentence with “And,” and why maybe you shouldn’t), punctuation (including a lovely—yes, lovely—discussion of semicolons on page 43), numbers (“if a style choice follows the rules but results in something that looks awful or makes no sense on the page, rethink it”), and grammar (including the comforting reassurance that he still consults _Words into Type_, too). This alone is worth the price of admission.
But then he goes on to share sections of his personal style sheet, including confusables, frequently misspelled words, and so on. Chapter 11 (“Notes on Proper Nouns”) is particularly charming, providing helpful and occasionally humorous notes on why some of the entries are included. It’s both an incredibly useful style sheet and a brilliant model for assembling one. Fellow editors, take note.
Through it all, he is not so much chiding you as confiding in you—a supportive writing partner who wants you to do well, and is willing to nudge you a bit to encourage it. He isn’t interested in transforming your writing; he wants to help you elevate it.
Dreyer’s English is a wonderful antidote to the rigid stuffiness of many twentieth-century style guides. It doesn’t so much replace them as subsume them—reinforcing the rules that matter, and giving you permission to ignore those that don’t. I’ve only had it for a week, and it’s already festooned with sticky notes. It may not be the last or only guide you’ll ever need, but it will definitely be one of the first and most useful you reach for.