This is the book you wish you’d had in school. Yes, it has all the difficult grammar concepts — conjunctions, infinitives, dangling modifiers, adverbial phrases (though not the fronted adverbials included in the English National Curriculum’s Programme of Study) — but covered with copious examples and in a refreshingly lighthearted manner.
Unlike many grammar and usage books, his one is readable. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say it’s enjoyable. One of the main reasons is its pragmatism. For example, after a generous paragraph about the good political correctness has done in expunging insulting terms from acceptable speech, it then provides a few examples of PC gone too far. The section ends with a plea to writers to be sensible and sensitive and to say what they mean.
Some parts are bound to raise a wry smile — or a groan. For example, ‘All things considered, avoid clichés like the plague’.
There are some very useful sections, such as the one on confusing words — which, strangely, does not include invidious/insidious. Another handy section is the one listing acronyms. The grammar rules are clearly explained, always with examples, which makes them comprehendible. Where there is a difference between British and American usage, the author points them out. In addition there are some marvellous box-outs, such as the one entitled ‘Who’s coming to Dinner, Supper, Lunch or Tea?’, which delves into the ‘gastronomic bizarreries of Britain’.
And should you really miss those school grammar lessons, there are plenty of tests to keep you occupied.
This is definitely a book that every writer should have on their shelves. It’s easy to find a problematic concept or word, and the advice is pragmatic rather than puritanical.
Star rating /5: 5
Collins Complete Writing Guide (Amazon affiliate link)