Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Woe Is I by Patricia T. O'Connor

Woe Is I:  The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Connor is a delightful look at the basic rules of grammar.  This new and expanded edition includes a chapter on email.  The rules have examples which are amusing and slightly off-beat, full of cultural references from television shows to literature.  I often found myself chuckling.  (I even guffawed at one sub-chapter title:  Metaphors Be with You.) I also often found myself having to reread the examples because I automatically corrected the wrong examples as I was reading and when O’Connor declared them to be incorrect, I would be confused and then realize, upon rereading, what I was doing.

I suppose this says much about me as a reader and grammarian.  I certainly don’t claim to be disciplined or even conservative with my own writing, as is evident by many of my blog posts.  Do I get a cookie for knowing the difference? 

The truth is, I don’t especially like reading about or even studying grammar rules so I am always pleased when I find a book like this one that makes reading the rules engaging and occasionally amusing.  I like it so much that I am inclined to recommend it to everyone.  My favorite grammar book is no longer easily available but it remains my favorite.  Unfortunately, I have a habit of lending it to people only to have them keep it.  It gets more difficult for me to replace an out-of-print book. Now I’m considering buying Woe Is I and lending that so that I can hold onto the other book.  But first I need to replace the other.  *sigh*

Oh wait!  The Transitive Vampire is not out of print after all.  I remember trying to order it through a bookstore and either they mislead me when they said it was out of print or it was and it's back.  Not sure which.  It doesn't matter.

Truth is, I would recommend either book.  If you like your examples a little gothic twist, then you'll love Karen Elizabeth Gordon's book.  If you want to read examples that include characters from The Honeymooners and The Flintstones and others then you'll love O'Connor's book.  I didn't mention that she also has the audacity to list those traditional (conservative) grammar rules which simply are no longer relevant or required.  That chapter alone is worth the time and energy of reading.  And I wish everyone who emails me would take the time to read the chapter "E-Mail Intuition" because I do get tired of trying to decipher other people's meanings between the acronyms, emoticons, and endless lists of forwarded email addresses.

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