The necessity of proper grammar is a blessing and a curse. A blessing for clear communication and consistency in how we communicate. A curse because it can be so complicated—everything from spelling to punctuation to phraseology.
To make matters confusing, there are conflicting style guides. The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook has some key differences from The Chicago Manual of Style (used by all book publishers}. Hayley Jennings succinctly pointed out some highlights in her article “Write the Right Way.”
The vice president, executive managing editor, and copy chief of Random House, Benjamin Dreyer, tackles the topic of grammar and style in his brilliant book, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (Random House, 2019). [As of this writing, it is 40% off on Amazon, only $15, and 30% off at Barnes & Noble.] If you like reading about words, grammar, and correct writing, this is the book for you.
He has an entire chapter on commonly misspelled words. For example: “Paraphernalia – that r just past the midpoint tends to fall out.” Or: “Cappuccino – Two p’s and two c’s. Also, there is no x in ‘espresso,’ but you knew that already.”
There is a 20-page chapter on the realities of fiction that is worth the price of admission.
My favorite chapter is called “A Little Grammar Is a Dangerous Thing.” I found it full of great reminders of simple things that may be in our lazy speech but simply not correct when written.
He also has great sections on semicolons, brackets, quotation marks, periods, commas, hyphens, and much more.
His last chapter is called “The Miscellany” and has some entries that made me laugh. #6: “Clichés should be avoided like the plague.” #8: “There is a world of difference between turning in to a driveway, which is a natural thing to do with one’s car, and turning into a driveway, which is a Merlyn trick.” #20: “They’re not Brussel sprouts. They’re Brussels sprouts.”