- Hardcover: 1120 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 4 edition (April 8, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190491485
- ISBN-13: 978-0190491482
- Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 2.6 x 7.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 49 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Garner's Modern English Usage 4th Edition
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Praise for previous editions:
"Really, really good... Thorough and timely and solid... Bryan Garner is a genius."
--David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster
"This is a thorough tour of the language-a major reference work-offering humane instruction in diction, idiom, sentence structure, and much else."
--Wall Street Journal
"Any writing guide published today must compete with the work of Bryan Garner, whose Dictionary of Modern American Usage set a new standard."
--Los Angeles Times
"Thorough, revered, authoritative, and altogether extraordinary."
-Gary Lutz & Diane Stevenson, The Writer's Digest Desk Reference
"Garner knows his stuff, and he's one of the least stuffy grammarians around."
"Authoritative and indispensable."
--John R. Trimble, Writing with Style
"A magisterial work for language lovers."
--Arthur Plotnik, Spunk & Bite
"Garner, in this latest update, combines solid erudition, lucid explanations, and sharp, crisp, witty prose. It's a can't-do-without reference book. You can just pick it up, open to any page, and start reading for guiltless pleasure."
--San Diego Union-Tribune
"The one indispensable book on language published in 2016 is the fourth edition of Garner's Modern English Usage... Mr. Garner writes with zest and clarity, and although he is an excellent chronicler (how has the language been used?), he is a reliable counselor as well (how should it be used?). Mr. Garner's guide now exceeds 1,000 pages and includes arrays of real-life example sentences, all duly cited. It is in many ways an atlas of the English language." --The Wall Street Journal
"The best qualities of Garner's book are the inclusion of empirical data, including the language-change index rankings and Google's ngram data. Also, the extensive use of quotations throughout the entries is especially helpful to illustrate his points." --
"[T]he book (and app) will appeal mostly to those seeking Garner's opinions about unrelated bits of English--opinions that are increasingly constrained or bolstered by objective and quantifiable evidence. For linguists and lexicographers seeking to understand whether a more realistic view of usage among 'descriptive prescribers' might be on the horizon, it may also prove an interesting volume." --Dictionaries
About the Author
Bryan A. Garner has been recognized as a pioneer across a wide range of fields, including English usage, grammar, jurisprudence, legal advocacy, legislative drafting, transactional drafting, legal ethics, and legal lexicography. He has written more than 25 books, many of them award-winning, including The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation; Garner on Language and Writing; Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts and Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (both with Justice Antonin Scalia); Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage; Legal Writing in Plain English; The Elements of Legal Style; The Winning Brief; and Ethical Communications for Lawyers. As editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary, he has re-researched and rewritten that book over the past four editions while becoming one of the most widely cited legal writers in the world. He is Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University and president of LawProse Inc.
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The changes include not only internationalization, but also evidence-based evaluations of changing usage. In this, the work is presently unique, as well as timely, as we enter the second Internet generation. It also features a near-perfect balance between descriptive linguistics and prescriptive advice, with the latter based on logic and the goal of clear communication. In this respect, it (like its earlier editions) happily parts ways from the majority of the heavily prescriptive works, which have a tendency to arbitrary proclamations based on authorial or institutional preference (often excessively nationalistic in ways that defy actual reality), and over-reliance on tradition to the point of ossification. Garner, a lawyer as well as a lexicographer, is no 20-something blogger who thinks making your text "pop" with "coolness" is more important than professional-quality prose that won't look ridiculous in 5 years when your precious buzzwords sound corny (for a good laugh in this vein, pick up a used copy of the once oh-so-hip 'Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age'). Garner is not afraid to lay down a rule – a best practice – when ones seems warranted, unlike some other 21st-century style guides, but he gives clear rationales. He is, however, careful about legitimate dialectal variance, and of the distinctions between different registers of formality. While I describe 'Garner's' as a usage dictionary (like 'Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage', 4th ed.,'The Associated Press Stylebook', 2015 ed., and 'New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors', rev. ed.), It also has short essays on various topics of style and grammar included among the shorter entries, and a separate table of contents for them. Note: This book also supersedes 'The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style', a compressed version of an earlier edition of 'Garner's Modern American Usage'.
When Garner does get prescriptive, his tone can be a bit mock-harsh, and less coddling that some others' writing advice, but plenty of us would consider this a strength. Garner also has the lawyer's gift for weaving dry, isolated facts into a persuasive flow, making the book difficult to put down despite being mostly an alphabetical list of items that, taken individually, are trivia. The cross-referencing, consistency, and comprehensiveness of the work rapidly build up an unexpected level of synergy between entries after only a few page skimmings; in-depth reading is very rewarding, despite the entry-based format. This kind of writing is solidly grounded in the "plain English" principles advanced by Orwell and Gowers, being concise, clear, and certain in its purpose, without being terse or dull. It's not like reading a Webster's dictionary. Perhaps the only real flaw in 'GMEU' is that Garner is a writer and editor – an applied user of language more than a student of it – and not an academic linguist, so his usage of certain linguistic terms can be a bit loose at times, both in this book and some of this other works
If you have limited bookshelf or desk space, the three references you most need for writing today, for a modern, world-wide audience, are ''The Chicago Manual of Style', 16th ed. (North American formal style); 'New Hart's Rules' (international formal style; use Ritter's 2005 edition, as the more recent "update" badly lost its sense of purpose, seeming afraid to actually recommend anything much of the time); and perhaps above all this new edition of 'Garner's Modern Usage'. Both 'Chicago' and 'New Hart's' are style manuals in the chapter-based sense, covering grammar, punctuation, capitalization, italics, citations, etc., in a more programmatic fashion that Garner's essays in the present volume, though he wrote the grammar chapter of 'Chicago', and a greatly expanded version of that material is forthcoming as of this writing, under the title 'The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation' (may 2016). It is no longer necessary to have a comprehensive paper dictionary around if you live or work in tight quarters, since the advent of OxfordDictionariesOnline.com, Dictionary.Cambridge.org, and (with entires from both Random House and Collins) Dictionary.com, all of which are freely available.
If you have more room, also get the aforementioned other usage dictionaries. For one thing, the 'AP Stylebook' is essential for the North American variety of less formal journalism and marketing style (for British/Commonwealth news and PR writing, see the various online style guides maintainedt by 'The Guardian', 'The Economist', and other UK newspapers; there is no British equivalent of the monolithic 'AP Stylebook'). If you need to cover science and technology, add 'Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers', 8th ed. (a chaptered style manual, invaluable for its coverage of numbers and units, just for starters).
Even if you are not much of a writer, 'Garner's' will be great subway/bus reading, though it is not a lightweight book. It will be of more benefit to the average person than any guide to business or student writing when it comes to usage. It certainly contains much more value than a dozen of the cutesy little advice books with funny names. If you need help with the basic mechanics of writing well – grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, good paragraph formation – see 'The Elements of Style', 4th ed for the gist, or any of the various college and university textbooks on English composition (though be prepared to pay textbook prices). An affordable crash course, however, can be found in 'The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage', 2nd ed. But get 'Garner's', too. Because this new edition is actually tracking the trajectories of many aspects of language change (i.e., it's telling you the direction in which shifting usage is moving, how fast, and how far), this may well be the only style guide available in 2016 that will still be useful in 2026.
The most notable new feature of the fourth edition is the inclusion of data from Google Ngrams, which are explained in the preface. Garner incorporates this big data into his entries, and provides ratios of the number of times recommended forms are used in the Ngram database with the number of times a particular variant form is used. This takes a lot of the guesswork and speculation out of the recommendations, and bolsters the credibility of the guide.
If you already have the third edition of Garner's Modern American Usage, this edition is likely to be more a luxury than a necessity. But if you're looking for a usage guide and are unfamiliar with Garner's previous work, I strongly recommend Garner's Modern English Usage.
That gap was filled in 1998, when Bryan A. Garner wrote "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage" (published by the Oxford University Press, which also published Fowler). Finally, someone had written a book that matched Fowler -- not only in its erudition, but also in its accessible style, and even its wry sense of humor. And Garner's book had the advantages of being written both in modern times for a modern audience, and in the United States by an American author about American English. The book is a gem, and as authoritative a reference as you will find in this field in the last several decades (and probably the next several too).
"Garner's Modern English Usage" is this oustanding work's fourth edition. The second and third editions were retitled as "Garner's Modern American Usage" after their author, in view of the acclaim that the first edition earned. This new edition has been retitled as "Garner's Modern English Usage" because over the years the book, while rooted in American English, has taken a "broadly inclusive approach to World English, not just to American English and British English."
Each new edition has built upon the prior editions, and the fourth edition is no exception. The first edition was a dictionary of words in usage, rather than words about usage, and therefore assumed that the reader possessed a certain working knowledge of basic grammatical terms and concepts. For example, the first edition didn't define such basic terms as "sentence," "phrase," "clause," "word," or "part of speech." The second edition appended a glossary that defined many such basic concepts. (It also appended, as did the first edition, an 11-page chronology of books about usage, which illustrates both the rich tradition that Garner's work joins, as well as the tremendous resources upon which he drew in producing his book.) The third edition added the Language Change Index, which tracks the language as it evolves over time: after all, sometimes yesterday's nonstandard slang is today's standard usage, and the Language Change Index "measure[s] how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become." The fourth edition also adds the most comprehensive analysis of actual usage in the history of lexicography, using Google and other online resources that weren't available to previous generations of researchers.
As one linguist wrote after the first edition appeared, "[H.W.] Fowler, it would appear, is alive and well" in Bryan Garner's magnum opus. This usage dictionary is an indispensable resource for anyone who is serious about using the English language both correctly and artfully.