Book Review: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

I’ll just come out and say it: I love Grammar Girl. If you haven’t been to her website, it’s a great place to have fun learning about grammar and usage. Yes, that’s right: I just used the words “fun” and “grammar” in the same sentence.

Grammar Girl, a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, has a regular podcast discussing grammar and usage, and she also posts articles for those of us who prefer to read her tips. Her book is more of the same (in fact, I recognized some of it from the website) but all in one handy, well-designed package.

There are many things to love about Grammar Girl’s approach to grammar and usage. First, there is her sense of humor. There are honest laugh-out-loud moments when reading her book or website. (At least for me–and probably for others who don’t share my notion that it’s fun to diagram sentences.)

Grammar Girl’s personality shines through whether she is tackling punctuation, untangling grammar or defining the origins and modern usage of an unusual word. Her little personal asides keep her writing tips fresh, like this quick confession that pops up in the midst of her definition of a “canard”:

I’m afraid of ducks. Pat likes to feed them, and I get edgy when they are surrounding us with their hungry, zombie like determination and quacking. I’m certain that if they worked together, they could take us down.

While Grammar Girl’s articles are fun to read, their true value comes in what they are able to teach. With each subject, she gives a complete explanation in a concise manner, which includes plenty of examples to clarify her points. But she also frequently has a “quick and dirty tip” to make it easier to remember the correct choice for those who don’t care so much about the nitty-gritty grammar rules.

She also does a great job of showing the difference between grammar rules and preferences. For example, one of her most popular posts takes on the notion that it is incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. Grammar Girl points out that there are cases when it is perfectly fine to end with a preposition, and she clearly explains why. But she also explains that many people think you should never end a sentence with a preposition so she suggests you avoid the practice in formal situations–even if you know it is grammatically correct.

For practical grammar and usage advice that is fun to read and easy to remember, Grammar Girl is my go-to source. Her book also includes additional tips for writers, such as how to find inspiration and ways to cope with writer’s block. It’s a great (and inexpensive) resource for students, journalists, novelists and all types of writers.

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