Book Review: Dreyer’s English

Written by Frances Peck; copy edited by Annette Gingrich

Review of “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style” by Benjamin Dreyer (Random House, 2019).

"Dreyer's English" by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style hit the shelves a year ago. Or perhaps I should say it briefly touched the shelves, seeing as copies sold as fast as they could be printed. Repeating the improbable success of the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne TrussBenjamin Dreyer’s guide sold umpteen copies and topped bestseller lists.

I’ve long followed Dreyer on Twitter, where he is natty, chatty, and sometimes catty. The same irresistible combination makes his book, from cover to cover, a trove of delights.

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Book Review: Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors

Written by Jessie Laven; copy edited by Rebecca A. Coates

Review of “Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors ” by Bill Bryson (Doubleday Canada, 2008; Anchor Canada, 2009).

Image of the cover for Bill Bryson's book "Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors," which features one tall green book and a shorter blue book.

Bill Bryson is well known for his books on travel, science, history, and the English language. And this particular book of his, Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors, is an eclectic mix, reflecting the varied experiences of Bryson’s long and distinguished writing career. It’s different from his usual writings, and perhaps more dry, but no less valuable or insightful.

Before turning to writing, Bryson worked as an editor for several newspapers, including the Independent and the Times.  During this time, his manuscript began as a collection of notes that were assembled piece by piece over the years as he encountered questions or uncertainties. The resulting book is a useful guide for new writers and editors, answering questions they likely wouldn’t think to ask. It is driven by a desire to enlighten the reader and help them avoid common pitfalls.

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Book Review: The Elements of Eloquence

Written by Sarah Mitenko; copy edited by Karen Barry

Review of “The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase” by Mark Forsyth (Icon Books, 2013).

The image displays the cover of Mark Forsyth's book "The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase."Have you ever wondered what makes Shakespeare’s writing so darn good? Or Wordsworth’s, for that matter? And have you ever wondered how musical artists, like Katy Perry and Alanis Morissette, create lyrics that are catchy and memorable (sometimes annoyingly so)?

Notable author Mark Forsyth, also known for his blog, The Inky Fool, answers these questions and more in his third book, The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase. Throughout the book, he explores the fundamentals of classic rhetoric, using examples drawn from both renowned classical works and modern-day popular culture. Most of the chapters include examples from Shakespeare, as Forsyth argues that he likely learned rhetoric in school, a subject that was abandoned not long after Shakespeare’s time.

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Book Review: Unearthing Canada’s Hidden Past…

by Eric Damer

Review of Unearthing Canada’s Hidden Past: A Short History of Adult Education by Michael Welton (Thompson Publishing, 2013).

Ours is a learning society that goes well beyond schooling for youth. Historian Michael Welton adds that all societies are learning societies and always have been. Adults have always learned new job skills, cultivated leisure interests and even tried to change their society to make it a bit more fair, inclusive and democratic. This last activity—learning for progressive social change—interests Welton the most in this accessible account of adult education in Canada over several hundred years. Unearthing Canada’s Hidden Past: A Short History of Adult Education invites the reader to consider not only how adults have learned to adjust to their world but also how they have learned to change it. Welton has a special plea for adult educators to “keep faith with our emancipatory traditions” (p. 229) to tackle some of the pressing problems of our current age.

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Book Review: The Subversive Copy Editor

by Frances Peck

Book review of The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller (The University of Chicago Press, 2009)

What does it take to get really good at the business of editing? I’d boil it down to four things: turn in great work, treat clients well, meet your deadlines, and maintain your perspective (code for: keep calm and carry on).

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