NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “An essential (and delightful!)”* guide to writing from Random House’s longtime copy chief and one of Twitter’s leading language gurus—in the tradition of The Elements of Style
*People (Book of the Week)
We all write, all the time: books, blogs, emails. Lots and lots of emails. And we all want to write better. Benjamin Dreyer is here to help.
As Random House’s copy chief, Dreyer has upheld the standards of the legendary publisher for more than two decades. He is beloved by authors and editors alike—not to mention his followers on social media—for deconstructing the English language with playful erudition. Now he distills everything he has learned from the myriad books he has copyedited and overseen into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward.
As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”
And yes: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”
Chockful of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts, this book will prove to be invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people’s prose, and—perhaps best of all—an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language.
Praise for Dreyer’s English
“Playful, smart, self-conscious, and personal . . . One encounters wisdom and good sense on nearly every page of Dreyer’s English.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Destined to become a classic.”—The Millions
“Dreyer can help you . . . with tips on punctuation and spelling. . . . Even better: He’ll entertain you while he’s at it.”—Newsday (What to Read This Week)
Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, presents a splendid book that is part manual, part memoir, and chockfull of suggestions for tightening and clarifying prose. These begin with his first challenge to writers: "Go a week without writing very,' rather,' really,' quite,' and in fact.' " ("Feel free to go the rest of your life without another actually,' " he says.) Dreyer goes on to write with authority and humor about commonly confused or misspelled words, punctuation rules, and "trimmables," or redundant phrases (the most memorable he ever encountered was, "He implied without quite saying"; Dreyer was so "delighted" he "scarcely had the heart" to eliminate it from the manuscript). But Dreyer's most effective material comprises his recollections of working with authors, including Richard Russo, who after noticing a maxim posted in Dreyer's office from the New Yorker's Wolcott Gibbs "Try to preserve an author's style if he is an author and has a style" later called him to ask, "Would you say I am an author? Do I have a style?" This work is that rare writing handbook that writers might actually want to read straight through, rather than simply consult.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I absolutely adore this. I do. It’s perfectly charming in an unconventional way. I’m both reading the book and listening to the audiobook (also available on iTunes.) Benjamin Dreyer expresses the rules, nonrules, and ettiquette of grammar and language through experiences he has faced as a copyeditor over the years. Rules are explained through experiences and stories. It’s fantastic. I enjoy the narrative that mixes with the lessons as they help me remember what should and should not be said or written. Although, perhaps if Dreyer were to see this review, he would think that my English could use some work.
All in all, I find this book highly enjoyable and truly entertaining. Much more than a style manual, it is helpful and hilarious and overly amusing.