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Dreyer's English

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Benjamin Dreyer is the copy chief at a little-known publishing house known as Random House. He knows a thing or two about ensuring that prose is clear, error-free, and perhaps even delightful to read. Dreyer insists he is not writing an essential style guide (there is probably no such thing). Instead, he shares the rules that aren't quite as concrete as you might think, and the conversations he has in the margins with the writers he works with. (Don't worry, we get over our objections about ending a sentence with a preposition in chapter two).

The first half of the book is a meandering sort of meditation on how to write well. The second half is a list with explanations: what's the difference between affect and effect? How do I spell the name of that author? (It's Virginia Woolf with two O's.) Dreyer's English is a book for writers who want to improve their craft, editors who want a better handle on the why of things, and any reader who is fascinated by language. It's also delightfully funny. The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book. If you find yourself in need of a good style guide (or twelve), you might as well have one that will make you laugh while you figure out if you should be using further or farther.

Dreyer's English:
An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style from the Copy Chief of Random House
By Benjamin Dreyer
Random House January 2019
256 pages
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This book is undoubtedly one of my favorites of 2019. Benjamin Dreyer addresses all the important questions about the English language that writers need to know. And then some. Dreyer's narrative style is chatty and friendly and his passion for his subject matter is highly infectious. If you have a writer in your life, this book will make the perfect gift -- the kind that will keep on giving for years to come.
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A laugh-out-loud funny book about proofreading? Surely I must be kidding. But no—that’s exactly what Benjamin Dreyer has created with “Dreyer’s English.” If you’re the type of person who finds it fascinating that a group of people walking in pairs is called a crocodile, or who breaks into hives as Christmas card season approaches, this is your book. (If, however, you don’t know what I’m talking about regarding the cards, you may want to give this one a miss.)

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review. Loved it!
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Fun, funny, and—most importantly—genuinely helpful. Dreyer is a wonderful presence on Twitter, and he brings a lot of that wit and insight into what would otherwise be a rather dry guide to language usage. Highly recommended if you are a writer or editor, but also if you simply love language and are interested in how English works.
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What a delight!  I don't think I have ever enjoyed a reference book more in my life.  Mr. Dreyer has a voice and tone that is appropriately informative while also adding some cheek and humor to the endeavor.  I am so happy to have received an advance copy for an honest review from the publisher.  This is one I will be returning to over and over again.
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Such a great book! This millennial's version of Elements of Style offers many amazing tips and tricks for writing. I actually ended up recommending this book to my college's Grammar and Composition teacher. A job well done for sure!
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I saw the interview with the author on MSNBC and got curious about the book. I could not put it down. Language as we know is so inefficiently used that we don't even realize it. I enjoyed every bit of this book and would like to read any future books by this author
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Because I am familiar with Benjamin Dreyer's bent for sarcasm, I went into this read expecting exactly that in his writing. I was not disappointed. Mr. Dreyer brought the snark as well as the information.  As someone with The Elements of Style well used and conveniently located on the shelf, I think Dreyer's English fills the void that occurred since publication.  I think this is a strong reference piece, and who doesn't like a bit of fun in their reference books.  
I received my copy through NetGalley under no obligation.
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The author managed to make a book about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. entertaining. 

Reading it as an ebook separated the footnotes from the text and that was not helpful. Having said that, in my opinion, this is the type of book to own in hardcover. And for someone who is or wishes to be a writer, this book would be a useful companion.

For me, quite a bit of it in the second half was superfluous. Proper names for plays, products, etc. 

Having read this book, I wonder how any of us manages to communicate in English.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Benjamin Dreyer for allowing me to read and review Dreyer's English. This book is delightful and educational, a terrific mix!
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The first style guide written with wit! Dreyer's English is an engaging, delightful book about writing, copy editing and the tips and tricks Dreyer has learned in his career at Random House. This is perfect for all lovers of grammar, language, or anyone looking for an approachable peek into style.
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This book was a treat. Educational and humorous, engrossing and worthwhile. This is sure to be my companion in my writing journey.

Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for the advanced reader copy.
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Dreyer's English was everything I expected from the reviews and more. It was educational, interesting, and funny--unlike the case with most grammar and style books. 

Not at all fond of "grammar jargon," Dreyer makes the case that reading is the best way to learn grammar, syntax, and usage. Not that he is discarding all rules; he is steadfast in his belief in many of them, but he is also aware of the importance of an author's individual style and the way the language is changing. Dreyer's wry, witty approach to clarity and style finds him sometimes reversing himself with no apology. 

He upholds my own thoughts about the Oxford--or series--comma ("Only godless savages eschew the use of the series comma"), the use of fragments, the occasional comma splice or split infinitive, and the awkwardness of attempting to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. He includes the quote attributed to Winston Churchill: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." 

And (yes, you can begin a sentence with "and") the footnotes are often even better than the text. 

I believe I may need a physical copy of this one. As both a reference and a pleasure. (fragment noted)

NetGalley/Random House
Grammar/Style. 2019. Print length: 291 pages.
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Dreyer's English is a wonderful book for anyone who writes. It is filled with fun facts and is a useful companion for every writer. I highly recommend this book. 

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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A style guide that’s as readable as a novel?  Well, as readable as a book of humorous essays?  Yes!  Awesomely entertaining and informative.
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I’ve never read a writing style guide in my life. I once tried to read Strunk and White: ho-hum. ‘Sides, I thought S&T advocated a spare style and I happen to think that, except for tires in real life and heirs in romance, spares should be avoided at all costs. Instead, what I found in Dreyer’s was a fount of delight and—pah to erudition—pragmatic advice. His lessons stick: before writing this, I made sure I knew the difference between “font” and “fount”; between “practical” and “pragmatic” (not much), and how to type an em dash on Mac. I’d never done any of this before. Dreyer’s approach is quintessentially American: he doesn’t hold to rules, but he likes to be correct in a practical, educated way. If there’s a “rule,” and there aren’t many, know it, follow, or better yet, because English doesn’t go by hard and fast (that would be what happens in a romance novel), look it up:

“I have nothing against rules. They’re indispensable when playing Monopoly or gin rummy, and their observance can go a long way toward improving a ride on the subway. The rule of law? Big fan. The English language, though, is not so easily ruled and regulated.”

What I got from Dreyer? Educate yourself and don’t be redundant. His copyediting mantra is “Convention. Consensus. Clarity. Comprehension.” Reading him, I was chuffed: I laughed, I nodded in schoolmarmish agreement, snickered, and rolled my eyes at Dreyer’s sly contempt for the stuffily Puritanical “grammar police,” yes, but equally for the neologistically idiotic.  

I won’t remember all of Dreyer’s writing advice. (I do plan to buy a copy and dog-ear with impunity. I also plan to gift many a friend with this book when it’s affordable at non-hardback prices, my Christmas shopping is done.) What I’ll remember is what tickled me pink throughout: Dreyer’s sly stabs at grammatical, and otherwise, hypocrisy. For example, his stab at spare (there’s it goes again) prose, the territory of certain chest-thumping Hewingway wannabes. Dreyer’s thought on the sentence fragment (something I love and have avoided, but no more of that, my friends):

“You may not be Charles Dickens, but a well-wielded sentence fragment (or, as here, a passel of them) can be a delightful thing. That said, do wield your fragments with a purpose, and mindfully. I lately find them, particularly in fiction, too often used to establish a sort of hairy, sweaty, unbathed masculine narrative voice, and what they end up sounding like is asthma.”

I take this as a clear endorsement of the richer, adjectival-laden romance prose. And everyone knows that before the prose can purple, the hero and heroine, even on the run from bad-guys, must shower. Because the only sweat that’s acceptable is “clean sweated” hero-scent.

I will forever adore and be grateful to Dreyer for his defence of the Oxford comma:

“Whatever you want to call it: Use it. I don’t want to belabor the point; neither am I willing to negotiate it. Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”

I forgive Dreyer, he’s American after all, for calling it the series comma. Not an apostate, or heretic, but I’ll settle for Dreyer’s status as schismatic on this point. I do like Oxford, but will meet him across the fence on “series.”

*purse-lipped schoolmarm opinion* I despise the misuse of the apostrophe. There’s a hill I’m willing to die on. Dreyer’s stance on emphasis (exclamation marks? he’s rid me of them forever. All-caps exclamatory remarks? No longer in my writer’s dictionary) is “less is more,” but he cracked on the apostrophe and I loved him for it:

“Before we get to what you do use apostrophes for, let’s recount what you don’t use them for. Step back, I’m about to hit the caps lock key. DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO USE AN APOSTROPHE TO PLURALIZE A WORD. “NOT EVER” AS IN “NEVER.” You may reapproach.

Dreyer’s look-it-up, don’t-be-rigid, spirit-over-law approach is freeing and his book is peppered with wit. He urges his reader to use guide books and dictionaries (they’re our friends) instead of: “(Staring at words is always a bad idea. Stare at the word ‘the’ for more than ten seconds, and all of reality begins to recede.)”

Having started my schooling in 1968, my teachers sported sandals, strummed guitars, wore beading with panache, but didn’t teach grammar. As a result, I hold a dirty grammar secret *whispers* I don’t know any grammar words. I blush at words like “gerund” because I DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN. Dreyer freed me of shame by writing one sentence: “I’M GOING TO LET YOU IN ON A LITTLE SECRET: I hate grammar. Well, OK, not quite true. I don’t hate grammar. I hate grammar jargon.” I do too, Benjamin, I do too. I’ve always gone by the rule, “if it sounds right,” and now I can add Dreyer’s rule: when you’re not sure, find a practical, sound source, like Dreyer, and see what they have to say about it.

Lest you think there’s nothing here for the romance reader (and writer), I leave you with these two gems:

“PENDANT It’s not that ‘pendent,’ as occasionally turns up when ‘pendant’ is meant, isn’t a word; it’s that it’s usually not the word you want. ‘Pendant’ is a noun; ‘pendent’ is an adjective meaning hanging, or dangling—that is, what a pendant does. Pendulously.”

“COME/CUM Sexually speaking, there are no hard-and-fast rules about this, but I think that ‘come’ works nicely as a verb in the sense of ‘to climax.’ If one is then going to use the common term for the product of male orgasm, ‘cum’ is your man. As a staid conjunction, ‘cum’ suggests dual use, as one might speak of a desk-cum-bureau.”

I love that Dreyer isn’t above punning.

Dreyer’s English is near-perfect. Why “near,” you say? Because in this loose-and-happy grammar universe, Dreyer’s practical American approach nods to British use, but never once refers to his happy-in-the-middle Canadian cousins. We’re here, we’re neither here nor there and we’re unique. There was so much to agree with and love in Dreyer’s English, but I can’t let go of my “u” in colour, neighbour, etc. I would, however, with my reading companion, Miss Austen, urge you to read Dreyer’s English and gift it to your friends and family because it “bewitched me,” Pride and Prejudice.

Benjamin Dreyer’s Dreyer’s English is published by Random House. It was released on January 29th and may be found at your preferred vendor. I am grateful to Random House for a “wish granted” e-ARC, via Netgalley.
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This was both incredibly helpful as a writer but also consistently witty and a remarkably engrossing read.
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Whenever I speak with someone, I resist the compulsion to count his grammatical errors on one hand. I am that person who insists it's 'nauseated' not 'nauseous'. And I am that person who will tell you 'choate' and 'flammable' are major no-nos. In short, it may seem that someone who is a stickler for grammar and a self-professed Spelling Bee queen to buy a style guide; but I think it makes perfect sense. When one views a language as merely mathematical, as a list of dos and dont's, it can make one too self-conscious. For that reason, I would encourage everyone - including the 'Grammar Nazis' - to buy a copy of Dreyer's English. 

Benjamin Dreyer, the Copy-Editor-in-Chief at Random House, has written a style guide for today. He disabuses us of the notion that there are rigid rules to be followed. He chides some particularly bad writing practices but ultimately maintains that some rules are meant to be broken. From his vast experience as a copyeditor, he shares an anecdote where an author whose work he was editing questioned the heavy revisions made on his book; Dreyer ultimately conceded that he ought to follow the advice posted on his door, that the author has his style and it isn't the copyeditor's prerogative to totally revamp an author's oeuvre.

Dreyer's English is a joy to read - I loved the witty remarks and footnotes. Where most style guides are staid (understandably so?), this one is refreshingly modern, witty, and concise. I will definitely add this title to my permanent collection (not surprising given that it's composed of grammar reference books, haha) and I highly recommend this title to those interested in improving their writing.
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Grammar and punctuation nerds rejoice! We have found our leader, and he is Benjamin Dreyer.

Do you want to understand why split infinitives are not the devil’s spawn? Do you want to learn to love the comma and stop abusing it? Do you want to discover how adding “by zombies” will tell you whether you’re writing in passive voice or not?


I bought this book for two reasons: to help me write more effectively and, even more importantly, to help me teach my high school students the ins and outs of grammar.

Dreyer’s book reads like a novel. He will have you laughing one second and hiding your face in shame the next. What a perfect way to teach grammar and punctuation.
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Looking to crack open a good grammar book? Then I am happy to recommend Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, which warmed the cockles of this grammar geek’s heart. My husband was a little concerned (read: irritated) that I laughed aloud, with a literal LOL, in so many places, but indeed, I did—and over a grammar book.

I’m sure it helps that I commit some editing myself on occasion, but even if I did not, I would have great admiration for the role of those like Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House. I say he's doing the Lord's work by making the world a better, more readable place. I happen to like and even enjoy grammar rules, but I don’t believe fussy editor types are the only ones who will enjoy this book. Not by a long shot. Do you know the word “faffing,” for instance? I didn't, but his use of “faffing about” made me look it up, and now I’m a fan.

Dreyer shares my fondness for the serial comma, and he states his case rather simply: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.” (He says “series,” I say “serial.” To-may-to, to-mah-to.)

His writing is irreverent and occasionally self-deprecating, and how lovely it was to read that even a man in his position doesn’t quite know what all these blessed grammar things are called. “Even now,” he writes, “I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what a nominative absolute is, I think that the word ‘genitive’ sounds vaguely smutty, and I certainly don’t know, or care to know, how to diagram a sentence. I hope I’m not shocking you.”

And if I’m ever asked to play grammar-themed trivia one day—and my goodness, I hope I am—I will know that  the capital “G” in LaGuardia is a “medial capital.”

Many of the rules (and a few preferences) he discusses are simply things I’ve already learned and internalized from The Chicago Manual of Style, but Dreyer sure makes them fun to read and consider. I simply can't think of a writer or editor who wouldn’t benefit from reading this charming and helpful book.
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