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A Recommendation

I’ve been reading Benjamin Dreyer’s Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, and even though I’m only about forty pages in, I’m pretty sure Mr. Dreyer is my spirit animal.

For one thing, while he admits that “[t]here are fewer absolutes in writing than you might think,” he also confirms one of my long-held suspicions: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”

For another, he’s refreshingly honest:

I suspect that I’m not the only person currently reading this page who was not especially well trained, back in school days, in the ins and outs of grammar. When I started out as a copy editor, I realized that most of what I knew about grammar I knew instinctively. That is, I knew how most—certainly not all—of the grammar things worked; I simply didn’t know what they were called.

Even now I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what a nominative absolute is, I think the word “genitive” sounds vaguely smutty, and I certainly don’t know, or care to know, how to diagram a sentence.

Finally, Dreyer makes the argument I’ve been trying to make for twenty years now. “I swear to you,” he writes, “a well-constructed sentence sounds better. Literally sounds better.”

Sweet, sweet vindication. I was starting to feel like I was taking crazy pills.



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