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Who knew a stylebook could be so much fun? For lovers of language, Lapsing Into a Comma is a sensible and very funny guide to the technicalities of writing and copy editing. Author Bill Walsh, chief copy editor in the business section of the Washington Post, humorously discusses the changing rules of proper print style in the information age. Is it "e-mail" or "email"? According to established grammatical rules, it should be e-mail, but in common practice, we often use email (which should be pronounced "uhmail," but we all know not to do that). Therefore, email is OK.
Walsh does not advocate tossing your AP Stylebook, but he does encourage using your head and not blindly adhering to formal rules. "A finely tuned ear is at least as important as formal grammar," he says, "and that's not something you can acquire by memorizing a stylebook." What about companies that use punctuation in their logos? Walsh cautions against confusing a logo with a name. You wouldn't use "Tech Stock Surge Boosts Yahoo!" as a headline unless you wrote for a very excitable newspaper. And then there's arbitrary capitalization. "The dot-com era has leveled a wall that Adidas and K.D. Lang and Thirtysomething had already cracked," says Walsh, "and suddenly writers and editors faced with a name are asking, "Is that capitalized?"--a question that's about as appropriate as asking a 5-year-old, 'Do you want that Coke with or without rum?'"
The first half of Lapsing Into a Comma zips along, making you think about the intricacies of grammar and editing--all while trying not to choke on laughter. The second half is Walsh's personally crafted style guide. Remember--Roommate: Two m's, unless you ate a room or mated with a roo. --Dana Van Nest
This style manual is meant to serve as a companion to the Associated Press style manual. And what Walsh, copy desk chief at Washington Post, adds to Style is styleDthe element that the ever precise and dry traditional manuals often lack. Walsh's acerbic tone adds humor to the dry distinctions between "there, their, and they're," which never hurts and may, in fact, contribute to permanent retention. Taking on the web's contributions to slang, such as the prefix "e-" before mail and business, Walsh strikes frequent compromises between traditional style and contemporary usage and concisely explains correct pronunciations and proper definitions of words frequently used incorrectly. A few of the examples of common incorrect usage apply primarily to news reportage, but most have broader application. Those who like curmudgeonly humor find Walsh's writing method rather amusing. A good title for public and college libraries, especially those with the AP style manual.DRobert Moore, Raytheon, Sudbury, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Whether you're editing your own writing or someone else's, you will find Lapsing Into a Comma an invaluable and entertaining resource. Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by B. Viberg
Bill Walsh does a great service to the English language by building a potent barricade in the war against imprecision, obfuscation and outright misuse. Read morePublished on March 15 2004 by Amazon Customer
I thought I knew English grammar inside and out until my father-in-law got me this book. Not only have I learned many new things about grammar and good writing, but I've been... Read morePublished on Nov. 30 2003 by Robert G
Walsh makes many fine points about style in writing, particularly writing for a newspaper. But his smartypants humor wears thin very quickly. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2003 by J Scott Morrison
'Lapsing Into a Comma' is one of the best grammar books on the market today. You can almost hear the sarcasm in his voice as he talks about people with annoying grammar habits! Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2002
I just ordered this book. I recently heard about it at the author's website and had to have it.
It was money well spent. Read more
I've bought a lot of grammar books; generally, they help me get to sleep. Walsh had me laughing out loud at 2:00 a.m. - not with contrived examples, but with terrible truths. Read morePublished on May 30 2002 by Karen Bledsoe
It's refreshing to see a style guide that doesn't take itself so seriously! Bill Walsh gives witty, clever, and most importantly, CLEAR guidance on how to communicate effectively. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2001