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Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them Paperback – May 1 2000


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Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them + The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English + Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (May 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809225352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809225354
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #238,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I've written a stylebook that I hope makes the following point: Be skeptical of stylebooks. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Feb. 28 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is worth the 15 bucks if only for the section on quotes--it really shows how to properly construct them. Many other grammar books discuss the things we find in this book, but this author often goes a step further in his explanations. He writes, 'Semi-colons are ugly.' This is good because now we've heard something no other grammarian thought to tell us. It should be pointed out, though, that for the beginning writer there are other more practical grammar books. 'Woe is I' is one; 'English Grammar for Dummies' is another. Still, this book is a must-have for the serious writer.
The book is also annoying for several reasons. This notion that funny makes things more learnable has gotten way out of control. I want to go back to this book time and again but cringe at reading the same joke over and over. I also find the author's relentless name-dropping distracting. How can I concentrate when he's always going on about Nicole and OJ, Muhammad Ali, Newt Gringrich, et al? Then there's the subtle humor he's wont to use to make a point that's often too subtle--you need an extra second or too to deduce the gag.
In sum, the author obviously has a lot to share with us but overdoes the personality thing. When I want hip, subtle, and scads of personality I'll watch 'Friends,' I don't want to see all this in my grammar books.
Nat
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Format: Paperback
"Lapsing Into a Comma" is perhaps the most interesting stylebook one will find in print today. Reader's just have to beware that this is the _author's_ stylebook.
You'll find the usual suspects here with clear explanations about how to handle them. Punctuation, grammar and spelling are all covered, from the use of commas to the proper spelling of some famous individuals. The latter is one example of how different this book is. Knowing the proper spelling of Nicolas Cage's name might be entertaining and useful to those working for a newspaper, but I'm not sure it makes for a better reference book.
Some of the "rules" presented here will invariably be treated arbitrarily by the public. Some rules we follow, others just don't sound correct when we speak them so we move on. And sometimes what we think we know is not true at all.
Three examples:
Walsh makes the grammatically correct point that sports teams (or rock bands) with singular names (e.g. The Who, The Orlando Magic, etc.) must be combined with singular verbs. He argues that this is subject-verb agreement. While that is true, people simply don't think this way. The Magic are a team full of individuals. (See, I just made the "mistake" in the previous sentence! I did it without thought.) People don't think of the Magic as a he. They think of the Magic as a them. Just like the Yankees. Walsh dismisses these concerns, but he's ultimately spitting into the wind. People don't talk or think in this manner, subject-verb agreement or no. Fifty years from now someone writing about grammar will lament the fact that no one follows this rule. Get over it.
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Format: Paperback
Whether you're editing your own writing or someone else's, you will find Lapsing Into a Comma an invaluable and entertaining resource. Part commentary, part stylebook, it addresses not only the usual usage topics (split infinitives, that vs. which and a historic vs. an historic) but also some issues too new or obscure to be found in the traditional manuals (e-mail vs. email, how to tell a playmate from a Playboy Bunny and why a right hook is a bad example of a punch). In an opinionated, humorous and, yes, curmudgeonly way, Bill Walsh of the Washington Post strikes an often unpredictable balance between the traditional and the progressive in examining the state of American English usage in the computer age
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By Judgeman on May 1 2004
Format: Paperback
Bill Walsh, the Washington Post's copy editor for national news, is an unabashed "prescriptivist" -- someone for whom, in writing, there are things that are wrong because they've always been wrong. "Even if you think it's arrogant to condemn a perfectly understandable bit of prose as 'wrong,'" he writes, "you have to answer one big question: Do you want to look stupid?"
With "The Elephants of Style" you'll reduce the chance of sounding stupid, increase the likelihood that your writing will have style -- or, as Walsh puts it, FLAIR! ELAN! PANACHE! -- and have a lot of fun. "The Elephants of Style" is the rare book about writing and style that you may (as I did) read from cover to cover for sheer pleasure -- like the pleasure of learning that "the New York train station is Grand Central Terminal," but "Grand Central Station remains the correct expression for mothers yelling at their kids about running in and out of the kitchen."
I'll admit it: I'm one of those lovers of English who has shelves full of books about writing and the use of our language. I regularly read Walsh's website "The Slot: A Spot for Copy Editors," and I also purchased his first book, "Lapsing Into a Comma," which also was a delight. "Lapsing" was aimed at an audience of more sophisticated word users or, as Walah says, was written for editors and writers. "Elephants of Style," he says, was written for writers and editors. It will benefit everyone, I say, from professional writers and editors to middle-school English students. I recommend it highly.
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