amastyleinsider

February 6, 2014

Ex Libris: Almost True Confessions

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 11:23 am
Tags:

No one appreciates Rannie Bookman. Only a short while ago she was the toast of New York for having solved the mystery of the Chapel School murder (in Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth), but now the media frenzy has faded, and Rannie is just another unemployed and underappreciated freelance copy editor.

There’s no denying it. Rannie is in a slump. She hasn’t felt this low since she was fired from her job at Simon and Schuster for approving a reprint of the Nancy Drew book The Secret of the Old Clock with a crucial letter missing in the last word. Her family thinks she just needs to get back to work. “You’re not Nancy Drew. You’re a copy editor. Stick to that,” her boyfriend Tim tells her. So, when her friend Ellen from Simon and Schuster calls to offer her some freelance work, Rannie jumps at the chance. Maybe this will give her a sense of purpose again. But mystery repeats itself when Rannie’s work leads her into dangerous territory in Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Tells All.

In this second book in the Rannie Bookman series, written by Jane O’Connor, Ellen offers Rannie a job copyediting a tell-all book about aged socialite Charlotte Cummings written by the gossip-wielding biographer Ret Sullivan. Rannie is intrigued, not only with the subject but also with the author. Ret Sullivan was renowned for destroying careers and lives with her books, but Ret’s own life was ravaged when an Oscar-winning actor who she revealed to be a child molester had thrown lye in her face, leaving her horribly disfigured. Even if Rannie didn’t need the work, this assignment was too intriguing to pass up.

So Rannie accepts the job and heads over to Ret’s apartment on the Upper East Side of New York to collect the manuscript. However, on arriving at Ret’s apartment, Rannie gets more than she bargained for when she discovers Ret tied to her bed and strangled with a Hermès scarf.  And Ret is just the first life the murderer claims. How can Rannie resist? It’s not her fault murder mysteries practically drop in her lap.

As Rannie starts to sleuth, she is led into the extravagant, moneyed world of high society. She is far from her own world of humble apartments, greasy diners, and working class bars, but she is in her element when it comes to hard-to-crack murder cases. Rannie has found her purpose once again.

Like Dangerous Admissions, Almost True Confessions is replete with details that will charm copy editors. Rannie is still the heroine with an editor’s sensibility and a proofreader’s eye. She still considers her words, and the words of others, carefully: “It flickered through Rannie’s mind that paranoia was by definition never justifiable; however, she held her tongue.” She still expertly knows her parts of speech: “No, no, no. ‘Less’ is an adverb, not an adjective. Far fewer friends visited, and they came less often.”  She is still skilled in word usage: “You’re referring to distance, so it’s farther apart, chided the picky grammar cop lodged in Rannie’s brain. ‘Further’ was for abstract mulling.” She is still in love with all things editing: “Then, too, there were all the wonderful arcane marks and symbols of copyediting. Insertion carets, transposition squiggles, underlining for italics, triple underlining for capitalization. It was like knowing a secret code.”

As Rannie and her creator Jane O’Connor (a long-time editor herself) know, this secret code is not appreciated by everyone. O’Connor writes, “Copyediting was an unglamorous job in publishing. Acquiring editors on the prowl for future Pulitzers and National Book Awards dismissed Rannie and her stickler ilk as the Grammar Gestapo, nothing more than human spellcheckers.” But as Rannie exemplifies, a love of language and a facility in manipulating it can serve you well in all parts of your life. In Rannie’s case, her talents lead her to solve mysteries.

As in Dangerous Admissions, Rannie uses the insight and problem-solving skills gained from years of copy editing work to identify the murderer in Almost True Confessions. She’s not a trained investigator. She’s not a law enforcement professional.  She’s just a copy editor with intense focus and a sharp mind. Rannie is the type of heroine that gives copy editors the appreciation they deserve.—Laura King, MA, ELS

December 4, 2013

Ex Libris: Dangerous Admissions

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 11:55 am
Tags:

How many of you have let your mind wander while editing that difficult genetics manuscript to imagine yourself in a whole new role? Of course, you’d never lose the skills that make you a diligent and gifted editor, but you’d put those skills to more glamorous use. Maybe you daydream of being a Nellie Bly–style reporter, going undercover to reveal corruption at insane asylums. Maybe a witty Nora Ephronesque screenwriter, penning romantic comedies to popular acclaim. Maybe even an adventuresome explorer such as Isabella Bird, chronicling her travels through the Sandwich Islands. If you are an editor prone to flights of fancy, then Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth by Jane O’Connor is the book for you.

Jane O’Connor, author of the popular children’s series Fancy Nancy, has created a heroine for editors who long for adventure—Miranda “Rannie” (rhymes with Annie) Bookman. Rannie has been fired from her job as executive managing editor at Simon and Schuster for approving a print run of 5000 copies of a collector’s edition of the first Nancy Drew book—The Secret of the Old Clock. The only problem is the missing lowercase “l” from the last word of the book title. Heads rolled, and Rannie was forced to roll out the door, thus beginning a less than satisfying career as a freelance editor.

As all freelancers know, you take work where and when you can get it. Rannie is editing a book on Josef Mengele, chief physician at Auschwitz, for $40 per hour and giving tours of her children’s exclusive private school, the Chapel School (Chaps), to make ends meet. She appreciates having the work, but she feels “untethered, superfluous, a forty-three-year-old dangling participle.” Rannie is a woman with a high IQ, a fertile imagination, and too much time on her hands. Therefore, when the (mostly) beloved director of college admissions, A. Lawrence Tutwiler (Mr Tut), is found dead in his office at Chaps and Rannie’s son Nate becomes a suspect, Rannie fills her spare time by investigating the murder.

Dangerous Admissions chronicles Rannie’s encounters with several murder suspects: Chaps student Olivia Werner and her troubled brother Grant, school bully Elliot Ross and his well-connected father David, English teacher Augusta Hollins, and new Chaps headmaster Jonathan Marshall. She encounters romance along the way with fellow Chaps parent Tim Butler. Traveling alongside Rannie as she unravels the mystery  of Mr Tut’s murder is a fast-paced and fun joyride, but for editors the real treat is how Rannie uses her editorial skills to successfully solve the mystery.

The novel is peppered with details that will engage any editor, freelance or full time. Rannie has a proofreader’s eye, quickly noticing misspellings on menus (“You think maybe I should tell them their menu offers ‘French fires’ and ‘dally specials’?”).  She can spot a verbal phrase dangler at 50 paces (“‘Growing up in California, New York was always my dream,’ he stated, Rannie mentally wincing. . . . New York hadn’t grown up in California, he had.”).  She has a mastery of those tricky “-ly” words, cringing at the misuse of the terms badly (“Bad. You felt bad. If you have a defective sense of touch, then you feel badly.”) and really (“A moment later Rannie stood, attempting to convince herself he wasn’t that attractive and taking note of his use of ‘real’ instead of ‘really’. . .). She even knows her who from her whom (“‘Whom shall I say is calling?’ ‘Who’ not ‘whom’ the grammar cop, never off duty, silently corrected.”). Even when she’s cornered by the killer, her mind flits to correcting his use of the word different (“‘Differently,’ her inner copy editor ludicrously insisted.”).  It’s these particulars that make the book such an enjoyable read for editors.

The only quibble I have is the few typos and usage errors that appear in the book. For example, the word psych is misspelled as pysche and psycho as pyscho. In addition, a character foregoes a cigarette rather than forgoes a cigarette. Normally, such minor errors could be easily overlooked, but in a story that hinges on the abilities of an eagle-eyed editor, these errors cause the reader to disengage. As Rannie herself says, “Hotshot editors with fat Rolodexes and expense accounts might dismiss proofreaders as punctuation-obsessed fussbudgets, gnashing their teeth over split infinitives. But reading was such a crazy process when you thought about it. At some point you stopped being aware that you were decoding squiggles printed in black ink on white paper. Suddenly you entered another world. It was all an illusion, and misspellings, inconsistencies, anachronisms, wrong dates—whatever—wrecked the illusion.”

It’s Rannie’s editorial eye and attention to detail that lead her to solve the mystery of Mr Tut’s murder. She does it all armed with only her swift mind and Col-Erase blue pencil. (And let me tell you, that blue pencil really comes in handy!) She’s a heroine all editors who’ve dreamed of adventure can get behind. So, if you’re looking for a distraction from that genetics manuscript, pick up a copy of Dangerous Admissions and let the daydreaming begin.—Laura King, MA, ELS

July 24, 2013

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 8:52 am
Tags: ,

This column wraps up the reviews of Grammar Girl’s 101 words series with Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart. Just as our superhero Grammar Girl came to the rescue of high school graduates who want to appear educated and erudite with her book Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know, so too does she come to the aid of general readers who want to appear smart. A daunting task to say the least, but our heroine Mignon Fogarty, disguised as her Grammar Girl alter ego, is up to the task. As she writes in her introduction, “It’s a presumptuous task to choose 101 words that ‘smart people’ use. Who says what’s smart?” But difficulty notwithstanding, Grammar Girl forges ahead and forms a list of 101 words to sound smart.

As with the other books in the series, 101 Words to Sound Smart is formatted as a glossary, with words arranged alphabetically and most entries only 1 page long. Each entry includes a quotation illustrating the correct usage of the word in question from authors, reporters, actors, and other notable sources. For example, in the entry on wane, Fogarty quotes the author Evelyn Waugh, “My unhealthy affection for my second daughter has waned. Now I despise all my seven children equally.”

Although 101 Words to Sound Smart is aimed at a general audience, it is a useful guide for editors and particularly writers. Although all these terms can be found in dictionaries, Grammar Girl presents the information more simply and clearly. In addition, her explanations provide a means to understand not only the definitions of terms but also their usage.

For example, one of the terms listed in 101 Words to Sound Smart is Occam’s razor (also spelled Ockham’s razor). Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines this term as “a scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.” Huh? Grammar Girl explains it as “a phrase that means the simplest solution is usually the right one.” Oh, now I get it. She then clarifies: “For example, if you find a basket of tomatoes outside your door, it’s conceivable that ninjas are trying to poison you because, although you don’t know it yet, you are essential for their enemy’s evil plan; but Occam’s razor suggests it’s more likely your neighbor who likes to garden, and gave you tomatoes last year, left them there.”

This book serves as a useful compilation of words most readers are generally familiar with but not deeply knowledgeable about. As Fogarty writes, “Many of the words that made the cut are at least familiar to most people, but convey an especially deep meaning when the reader has an understanding of history (Machiavellian, bowdlerize, Rubicon), different cultures (Talmudic, Sisyphean, maudlin), or philosophy (existential). The words are also general enough that most prolific writers could find a reason to use them on occasion.” A few of the entries I found most interesting were anodyne, atavistic, defenestrate, diaspora, ersatz, gestalt, hoi polloi, jejune, nascent, neologism, omertà, peripatetic, sui generis, and zeitgeist.

Overall, Grammar Girl’s 101 words series, including 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know, 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time, and 101 Words to Sound Smart, is a clever, easily readable, and immensely enjoyable quartet of books. Through this series, our superhero Grammar Girl succeeds is vanquishing her arch enemy “the evil Grammar Maven who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful” (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/bio/) by offering an alternative to those murky, confusing grammar and usage books editors and writers have had to rely on for years.—Laura King, MA, ELS

June 19, 2013

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 2:12 pm
Tags: , ,

Of all the books in Grammar Girl’s 101 words series, 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time is probably the most useful for editors. This books lists 101 words that, as author Mignon Fogarty puts it, “are only sort of wrong.” These words are particularly challenging for editors. Do we bow to convention and allow established usage to reign or do we forge new ground (as editors often do) by insisting on up-to-date usage? With this book, Grammar Girl guides the way.

Each entry in 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time begins with a response to the question, “What’s the trouble?” In her response, Fogarty points out why the designated word is troublesome. For example, in the entry on healthy, she writes, “Some people insist that carrots aren’t healthy; they’re healthful because only healthful can mean ‘conducive to health.’” After outlining the trouble, Fogarty details the history of the problem. For healthy, she writes, “Healthy has long been used to describe things that improve your constitution. Healthful gained ground against healthy starting in the late 1880s, but healthy fought back and now, although healthful isn’t wrong, healthy is the dominant Standard English word we use when describing fruits, vegetables, exercise, and other things we hope will make us live longer.” Finally, Fogarty answers the question all editors ask themselves, “What should you do?” In the case of “healthy,” she states, “Ignore anyone who says you have to use healthful instead of healthy (unless you’re trying to feign an ‘old-timey’ air).” Fogarty concludes each entry with 1 to 2 quotations from pop culture sources (as she does throughout the 101 words series).

There are numerous entries in 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time that are applicable to the medical editor and that support (and occasionally refute) information found in the AMA Manual of Style. The following is a table of terms commonly found in medical editing and an explanation of how the AMA and Grammar Girl handle each term.

Term AMA Grammar Girl
African American “For terms such as white, black, and African American, manuscripts editors should follow author usage. … In the United States, the term African American may be preferred to black (not, however, that this term should be allowed only for US citizens of African descent).” “For Americans of African descent, use African American or black. If the person you are describing is from another country, use another appropriate term, such as Caribbean American.”
Aggravate “When an existing condition is made worse, more serious, or more severe, it is aggravated (also, exacerbated), not irritated.” “In formal situations or if you’re feeling especially sticklerish, avoid using aggravate to mean ‘irritate.’”
Billion “The word million signifies the quantity 106, while billion signifies the quantity 109. Although billion has traditionally signified 1012 (1 million million) in Britain, many British medical journals now use billion to indicate the quantity 109. A number may be expressed in million rather than billion if the latter term could create ambiguity. In that case, the decimal should be moved 3 places to the right. Trillion should be used to denote the quantity 1012.” “Today you can safely use billion to mean 1,000,000,000.” When you are reading old or translated documents, however, be aware of their country of origin and remember that the meaning of billion could be 1,000,000,000,000.”
Data “…retain the use of the plural verb with data in all situations.” “In general writing, if information won’t work because you’re using data as a mass noun to mean ‘information collected in a scientific way,’ data can be singular; however, in scientific writing, always treat data as plural.”
Gender Sex is defined as the classification of living things as male or female according to their reproductive organs and functions assigned by chromosomal complement. Gender refers to a person’s self-representation as man or woman or how that person is responded to be social institutions on the basis of the person’s gender presentation.” “Gender is a social construct, so when you ask someone’s gender, you’re asking whether a person wants to be perceived as what society calls males or society calls female. … If your readers are likely to be extremely squeamish about sex, it’s OK to use gender as a replacement for sex, but if not, try to keep the distinction between the two words.”
Media “In the sense of laboratory culture or contrast media, medium should be used for the singular and media for the plural.” “When media is used as a collective noun, it’s fine to use a singular verb.”
Over Time: Over may mean either more than or during (for a period of). In cases in which ambiguity might arise, over should be avoided and more than used. … Age: When referring to age groups, over and under should be replaced by the more precise older than and younger than. “Unless you work for a publication that follows AP style, freely use over to mean more than if it works better in your sentence.”
Percent “The term percent derives from the Latin per centum, meaning by the hundred, or in, to, or for every hundred. The term percent and the symbol % should be used with specific numbers. Percentage is a more general term for any number or amount that can be stated as a percent. Percentile is defined as the value on a scale of 100 that indicates the percentage of the distribution that is equal to or below it.” “When you are writing about increases or decreases in measurements that are themselves percents, it’s often important to be painfully clear whether you changes are percent changes or percentage point changes.  For example, if 6 percent of students attended swim meets last year, and 8 percent of students attended swim meets this year, that’s a 33 percent increase in attendance, but an increase of only 2 percentage points.”
Preventive “As adjectives, preventive and its derivative preventative are equal in meaning. JAMA and the Archives Journals prefer preventive. “You may certainly choose to use the sleeker preventive, but don’t chide people who prefer the longer form.”
Since Since should be avoided when it could be construed to mean ‘from the time of’ or ‘from the time that.’” “Don’t be afraid to use since as a synonym for because. Just be sure you aren’t creating ambiguous sentences.”
Unique “An adjective denoting an absolute or extreme state or quality does not logically admit of quantification or comparison. Thus, we do not, or should not, say deadest, more perfect, or somewhat unique. It is generally acceptable, however, to modify adjectives of this kind with adverbs such as almost, apparently, fortunately, nearly, probably, and regrettably. … [Unique] should not be used with a comparative (more, less), superlative (most, least), or quantifying (quite, slightly, very) modifier.” Unique is an absolute term, but it’s common to hear people modify it, saying such things a very unique. Grammarians call adjectives such as unique, dead, and impossible ‘ungradable.’ It means they can’t be more of what they already are. … Unique means ‘one of a kind’ or ‘having no equal,’ and things can’t become more unique. … Gradable terms can be modified down, however. For example, almost unique is fine. … Reserve unique for things that are truly one of a kind.”
Utilize Use is almost always preferable to utilize, which has the specific meaning ‘to find a profitable or practical use for,’ suggesting the discovery of a new use for something. However, even where this meaning is intended, use would be acceptable.” “Often, you can replace utilize with use and your sentence will mean the same thing and sound less stuffy. Utilize does have its uses, though. It conveys more of a sense of using something specifically for a purpose or for profit than use does. … Don’t use utilize just because it sounds like a fancy word. When in doubt, choose use. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to use utilize when you’re confident that it’s the right word.”

The above table is meant as a guide for the editor. As always, usage depends on whom you’re writing for and what you’re writing. However, before editors can make decisions on usage, they need to know the options and the reasoning behind them. Both the AMA Manual of Style and Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time provide useful guidance on how to handle some of the trickier terms encountered while editing.—Laura King, MA, ELS

January 8, 2013

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 2:03 pm
Tags: ,

Last month’s Ex Libris column reviewed Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, the first in a series of 4 titles in the 101 Words series by Grammar Girl alter ego Mignon Fogarty (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/). This month’s column reviews Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know. Just as Grammar Girl soared to the aid of grammarians in their quest to avoid misusing commonly confused words, so too does she come to the rescue of recent high school graduates (and those not so recent graduates) who want to appear educated and erudite. As Fogarty writes in her introduction, “You may or may not have been taught these words in high school, but they’ll serve you well from here on out. Use them in your college entrance essays or during job interviews to show that you’re well-read and well-spoken.”

Although this book could easily have become 1001 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know, Fogarty wisely narrows her list to 4 to 6 words from each letter of the alphabet from a variety of disciplines (eg, politics, science, and economics). As with 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know is a fun-to-read and easy-to-use paperback that is formatted as a glossary, with words arranged alphabetically and most entries only 1-page long. Each entry includes a quotation illustrating the correct usage of the word in question from such historical and cultural icons as Harry Truman, Andy Warhol, and Homer Simpson. For example, in the entry on Tenacious, Fogarty quotes the Belgian philosopher Paul De Man, “Metaphors are much more tenacious than facts.”

For users of the AMA Manual of Style, a few entries are particularly useful because they directly relate to the guidelines outlined in the manual (www.amamanualofstyle.com). For the term chronic, Fogarty writes, “In medicine, the opposite of a chronic disease (something that comes on slowly and will progress over a long time) is an acute disease (something that comes on suddenly, is severe, and is likely to end). For example, type II diabetes is a chronic condition and a stroke is an acute condition.” This supports the entry from the AMA Manual of Style, which states that the terms acute and chronic “are most often preferred for descriptions of symptoms, conditions, or diseases; they refer to duration, not severity.”

For the term malignant, Fogarty writes, “Malignant diseases and situations are aggressive, out of control, and dangerous. In medicine, only malignant tumors are called cancer; less invasive tumors are called benign.” In the AMA Manual of Style, the usage note for malignant reads, “When referring to a specific tumor, use malignant neoplasm or malignant tumor rather than malignancy. Malignancy refers to the quality of being malignant.”

Fogarty also defines the term correlation and provides the useful tip, “A common scientific phrase is correlation does not equal causation—a reminder that studies often find that events happen at the same time without proving that one causes the other.” This is similar to the AMA Manual of Style’s definition of the term correlation as the “description of the strength of an association among 2 or more variables, each of which has been sampled by means of a representative or naturalistic method from a population of interest. … There are many reasons why 2 variables may be correlated, and thus correlation alone does not prove causation.”

Finally, both Fogarty and the AMA Manual of Style describe the difference between the terms quantitative and qualitative. Fogarty writes, “People often confuse quantitative and qualitative, in part because qualitative results can be presented in ways that makes them look quantitative, for example, when researchers ask qualitative questions, but have subjects answer on numerical scales: How happy were you to see the dolphins? Answer on a scale from 1 to 10.” According to the AMA Manual of Style, qualitative data is “data that fit into discrete categories according to their attributes, such as nominal or ordinal data, as opposed to quantitative data,” which is “data in numerical quantities such as continuous data or counts (as opposed to qualitative data).”

Although Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know was written with a general audience in mind, much can be gained by the medical editor reader. Not only the entries on specific medical words but also the entries on general terms commonly encountered in scientific writing, such as ad hoc, epitome, jargon, kilometer, and mandate, are helpful for the editor.—Laura King, MA, ELS

November 27, 2012

Ex Libris: Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again

Filed under: ex libris — amastyleinsider @ 2:50 pm
Tags:

Up in the sky—look! It’s a giant bird! It’s a plane! It’s GRAMMAR GIRL!

Just as Superman flies to the rescue of the hapless citizens of Metropolis, Grammar Girl comes to the aid of the needy denizens of Grammarville. Have you met Grammar Girl yet? She’s part of a superhero team of experts from the Quick and Dirty Tips website. There’s Mighty Mommy, who offers practical parenting tips; the Math Dude, who strives to make math easier; the Nutrition Diva, who teaches you how to eat well and feel fabulous; and the Get-it-Done Guy, who offers tips on how to work less and do more. There are others in this Quick and Dirty Tips league, but I have to admit that Grammar Girl is my favorite. She fights the good grammar fight in a genial and humorous manner. She’s not brooding and aloof like Batman or flashy and self-satisfied like Wonder Woman. As her website states, “Her arch enemy is the evil Grammar Maven who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful.”

I have to admit that Grammar Girl has come to my rescue on numerous occasions. As an editor and teacher of editing, I often encounter grammatical conundrums. However, whenever I’m in a perilous grammatical situation, all I have to do is turn to Grammar Girl for help. She hasn’t let me down yet.

Just as Batman is really Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman is really Diana Prince, Grammar Girl’s true identity is Mignon Fogarty. Ms Fogarty is a former magazine and technical writer and the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network. She has a BA in English from the University of Washington and an MS in biology from Stanford University. Her weekly podcasts strive to help editors and writers communicate better. The top 5 tips listed on the website are as follows:

  1. Affect Versus Effect
  2. Why We Have Both “Color” and “Colour”
  3. First, Second, and Third Person
  4. Who Versus Whom
  5. Lay Versus Lie

Because I’ve relied on the Grammar Girl podcasts for several years how, I decided to check out some of Ms Fogarty’s published books as well. (I know, how “old school.”)

Her first audiobook, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing, was published in 2007 and was named 1 of the top 5 audiobooks of that year by iTunes. In July 2008, Fogarty’s first paperback book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, was published and hit the bestseller list in August 2008. Her second paperback book, The Grammar Devotional, was published in October 2009. In July 2011, Grammar Girl Presents the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students was released. Also in July 2011, St Martin’s Press released the first 2 books in a series of 4 books (so far) in the Grammar Girl’s 101 series: Grammar Girl’s 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know and Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, which were followed by Grammar Girl’s 101 Words to Sound Smart (in November 2011) and Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time (July 2012). It was this 101 series that caught my eye.

This first entry in the AMA Style Insider Ex Libris column deals with Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, with subsequent Ex Libris columns addressing the other 3 titles in the series. 101 Misused Words is an engaging, easy-to-use paperback book that deals with commonly confused words. The book is formatted as a glossary, with words arranged alphabetically and most entries only 1 page long. Most entries conclude with a Quick and Dirty Tip on usage. For example, for the entry on Foreword versus Forward, the Quick and Dirty Tip states, “Books contain words, and the spelling of the type of foreword you see in books ends with word.” Interspersed on the pages are literary, film, and pop culture quotations containing the words in question. For example, in the entry on Peak versus Peek versus Pique, Fogarty quotes Bruce Willis as John McClane from Die Hard 2: “Hey, well, as far as I’m concerned, progress peaked with frozen pizza.” The book is filled with these amusing quotations, making it not only a useful tool but also an enjoyable read.

There are a number of entries that support the guidelines outlined in the AMA Manual of Style and the style quizzes posted on the style manual’s website. For example, the following terms addressed by Fogarty are also addressed in the Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases section of the AMA Manual of Style: Affect versus Effect, Because Of versus Due To, Compose versus Comprise, e.g. versus i.e., Fewer versus Less, Historic versus Historical, Imply versus Infer, and Regime versus Regimen versus Regiment. In addition, a recent style quiz on the AMA Manual of Style website supports Fogarty’s entry on A versus An.

Overall, you don’t have to be a superhero to use Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again. It is an accessible, witty, useful book for anyone who needs to be rescued from those common grammar quandaries we so often encounter.—Laura King, MA, ELS

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 458 other followers

%d bloggers like this: