Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande

Have you ever stared at a piece of writing, wondering if it really needs that hyphen? Have you looked up apostrophes in multiple grammar guides, just to find that the rules contradict each other? Do you know someone who seems ready to pounce on anyone who makes an innocent mistake with the language?

If so, you might want to pick up a copy of Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande. The book brings sarcasm and pop culture to the world of grammar. I love books that can teach you something important while still making you laugh, and Casagrande is successful at doing just that. She is a writer and journalist who writes a grammar column in the Los Angeles Times, so she knows what she is talking about and has dealt with letters from grammar snobs everywhere who are offended at a grammatical mistake in a grammar column.

One of the first topics that Casagrande covers is the difference between "who" and "whom" and in what situations each one is appropriate ("who" is used as the subject of a sentence, and "whom" is used as the object). Grammar snobs love to use whom, and often use it incorrectly in their eagerness to show off.

The next chapter, about "til" versus "till," sets the lesson within the context of The Simpsons, which is a show with surprisingly accurate grammar. The one mistake they make on a regular basis is using 'til as the shortened form of until. As odd as it seems to add an extra letter onto the end of an abbreviation, the correct version is "till."

Often, she will reference the Associated Press Stylebook, the Chicago Manuel of Style, The Elements of Style, and Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. It's no wonder that the rules of grammar can get so confusing, when all the major tomes seem to disagree! It's important to know which reference guide is accepted for the particular type of writing you are doing. For instance, the AP Stylebook is the standard for newspapers and print journalism, where space is at a premium.

The forty-two short chapters can be flipped back to when you need to double check if you should write forty-two or 42, or you can read straight through. Few other grammar books lend themselves well to both.

Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies won't replace the reference guides on your bookshelf, but if you want to brush up on your skills and entertain yourself at the same time, this book is a terrific choice.

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