book about english grammar.

First, anyone has a some really good grammar book recommendations?

Second, I browsed amazon some days ago, looking for books on english grammar, and found one that I now seem to have forgotten. I think the title start with gramm-something. Could be some more words thrown in there that I don’t remember but I do remember it had gotten quite good reviews. Does it ring a bell? … 0394506154

You really can’t go wrong with The Elements of Style, here: … 297&sr=1-1

An excellent book on the use of grammar. Pocket sized, straight to the point, easy to understand, only £4.99… the list of positives are endless. It’s cram packed with useful info on ho to write clearly, and cut the flab from your prose. Hands down the best book on writing I have ever bought. And recommended by Stephen King too!

Elements of Style I got and love, but I need something a bit bigger and more elaborate.

For a concise explanation, written in English as good as it recommends, it’s hard to beat Strunk/White.

If you really want “bigger and more elaborate,” the standard text probably is Fowler’s Modern English. It’s gone through three editions. The first is more than eighty years old, and is more of a reliquary than a reference. The second, edited in the Sixties, is still pretty well up-to-date. I’ve not bothered with the third edition, because – like the Third Edition of Webster’s Dictionary – it’s largely descriptive, rather than prescriptive. (I’m a bit leery of anarchy.)

There’s also – aimed more specifically at US academic style – the Chicago Manual of Style. I haven’t kept up with successive editions of that one.

If you’re looking for a massive reference, then I’d heartily recommend The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.

It’s relatively recent (2002) and includes US, UK, and Australian English.

Yes, but it is a splendid reliquary and filled with charms.



Absolutely. I enjoy thumbing through it too, and we might all (those of us trapped in English as primary language) write and think better if we paid it more attention. For someone coming to grips with English from the outside, though, it may lead to confusion.

I think it depends on whether you want a guide to the way some believe the language ought to be, or a guide to the way the language is.

Author’s choice. 8)

Yes, I agree: this is the best up-to-date descriptive grammar I know of. There’s also a cut-down version: Huddleston, Rodney D. and Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2005). A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-61288-8

There is a choice between descriptive and prescriptive works. The trouble is that the best known prescriptive works are full of flat-out mistakes, myths and prejudice.
If you want a style guide –– something that tells you where to use a comma and where a semi-colon etc., then fine, use something like the Chicago Manual of Style. But beware its recently added, but obsolete advice on grammar.
For prescriptive advice, Geoff Pullum (co-author of the Cambridge grammar) recommends Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage.

Thanks for all of your replies! I will look into your advices and continue to search for the gramm-somthing book I found on amazon (the title was kind of cheesy, gramm-killer or something like that) and we will see what I decide to buy.

Mind the Gaffe was a no-nonsense book on English grammar that I really liked. What I especially like is how the author, R. L. Trask, has no truck with old fuddy-duddies who are mistakenly pedantic about certain usages. For instance, an old history lecturer of mine used to chide me about using split infinitives. He only knew about them, he told me, because he had been chided by his publishers. A “split infinitive”, for anyone who doesn’t know (though I doubt anyone here doesn’t), is the splitting of the infinitive verb - “to go”, “to be” or whatever - by placing a word between the “to” and the actual verb - usually an adverb. (The most famous so-called split infinitive, of course, comes at the beginning of Star Trek: “To boldly go…”)

This is how Trask begins his volley on the split infinitive:

He continues, radiant in his own passion:

Now that is what I like out of a grammar book! His advice about what to do when confronted with a phrase that may make some such “wrong-headed ignoramuses” “howl” their objection is refreshingly full of common sense. He points out, for instance, that if you always try to avoid so-called split infinitives, you will end up writing “some pretty awful and sometimes ambiguous English”. As an example, he gives the following sentence:

She decided to gradually get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.

Put “gradually” anywhere else and it is plain wrong - anywhere before “to” and it implies that the decision is gradual, not the getting rid of the teddy bears; put it at the end and it sounds as though she had collected them gradually. And you can’t put it after “get” because that is ungrammatical.

Mind the Gaffe is full of common sense and rather passionate grammatical wisdom, and I heartily recommend it. Nay, I would like to heartily recommend it. :wink:

A book I bought when fresh out of college - having realised that I wanted to write but that my comprehensive school education had left me with some rather bad grammatical habbits - was “Writing for Pleasure and Profit” by W. Freeman. I picked it up at some second-hand stall. It’s nearly half a century old now, so it is very fuddy-duddy and proper, but it’s short and it helped me no end.

I’ll stop waffling now. I just like any opportunity to go on about the split infinitive section of Mind the Gaffe. :slight_smile:

All the best,

I agree about split infinitives. Trask has the advantage of knowing what he is talking about when it comes to grammar: he is a linguist. For some reason grammar, especially the prescriptive variety, is a subject that everyone feels qualified to write about, by virtue of possessing a language. I have a kidney, but that doesn’t make me a renal specialist.

Rant over. (Is it obvious that I am a linguist?)

The real reason for posting was to say that there are some pretty good books on grammar aimed specifically at non-native speakers. I recommend Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, also Louis Alexander’s grammar books. The descriptions of grammar in books for English as a second language, while not perfect, are usually more accurate than the ones in the prescriptive books aimed at natives, and the level might be more approachable than Pullum’s tome.

Just remember, your characters speak in certain ways that may not necessarily be “good” grammar.

I like “Eats Shoots and Leaves” for punctuation assistance.

Lastly, some markets have different grammars. For example, in Australia, there is a definite shift in that/which and a few others in spoken language which are not the same in the US.

I’m not just talking about “lit / lighted”, but the way things are spoken. So if you write on behalf of an Australian character, take the time to learn the way we speak.

In my travels, this is true of Boston speakers as well as folks in Memphis. Both have distinct oral grammar.