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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lapsing into Too Much Personality
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...
Published on Feb. 28 2002

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Moderately informative, modestly funny
Walsh makes many fine points about style in writing, particularly writing for a newspaper. But his smartypants humor wears thin very quickly. He seems to think he's really cute - wink, wink, nudge, nudge - when, to this reader, he's simply tiresome. In his subtitle he calls himself a "curmudgeon," but I suspect he really is a frustrated stand-up comedian.
I...
Published on Feb. 3 2003 by J Scott Morrison


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lapsing into Too Much Personality, Feb. 28 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Just remember that this is the _author's_ opinion, July 14 2004
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This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (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.
While Walsh is annoyed by this example, he also states that the current oral tradition of using plural (they, them) instead of singular pronouns (he, she) might trump the grammatical rule. And he's OK with that. I happen to agree with him, but it only weakens his earlier point. If the oral tradition creates the rule in this case then why doesn't it in another?
Then there's at least one example where Walsh is just clearly wrong and, ironically, injects his own political views while accusing others of doing the same. Under the term gender Walsh claims that it came about as a result of the word "sex" being viewed as specific to the sexual act. He gives the example "race and sex preferences" and then says that _he_ thinks "sexual preferences" when he hears this term. Funny, I never thought of that until I read his words! But that's not the most important point.
Walsh criticizes those who would "politicize" the word gender by making it refer to behavior. His example goes something like this: Johnny likes to wear dresses so he's of the female gender. The problem is that the word gender came from the fields of sociology and psychology long before it was in common use today. The very roots of this word are _specific_ to behavior. There are no politics about it. In 1990 when you said the word gender you were talking about behavior, no genitalia. Walsh, who apparently didn't speak with a sociologiy or psychology professor before writing this, makes it appear as if the original meaning is the new "political" definition while at the same time injecting his own current political view - one that rejects the the need for a term which recognizes varying degrees of gendered behavior among the sexes.
Despite these criticisms, I still recommend this book. It's interesting and educational. Just beware of the fact that this is a stylebook and, by definition, expresses the author's viewpoint.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Thin, May 28 2004
By 
B. Viberg "Alex Rodriguez" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (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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5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and fun, May 1 2004
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (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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5.0 out of 5 stars The next Bill Safire?, March 15 2004
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
Bill Walsh does a great service to the English language by building a potent barricade in the war against imprecision, obfuscation and outright misuse. And he makes it a great read as well. A great gift for your favorite college student or federal official!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the weak, Nov. 2 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
'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! If you prefer proper grammar and find double negatives annoying, you'll love this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for copy editors. Money Well Spent., July 14 2002
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
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. I'm buying several more for my favorite copy editors.
This is a necessity for every copy editor or anyone managing copy for print. The author covered all of my pet peeves and touched on capitalization, math, pronoun and verb use and tech terms.
Bill Walsh's choices are sometimes at odds with what we find in the AP Stylebook, but he provides reasonable explanations for his rationale. A good read! This one will remain at arm's length.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, May 30 2002
By 
Karen Bledsoe (Issaquah, WA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
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. He tells you what's wrong with what you hear and read, and how to recognize what's wrong with what you're about to say and write. I'm still recovering from the warning about Reese's monkeys!
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4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read, March 7 2002
By 
Jeffrey Leeper "kem2070" (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
Bill Walsh is the copy desk chief (business desk) for the "Washington Post." He explains his background in journalism and refers, at times, to the AP style. Don't let this mislead you. Even though a few items are related directly to newspapers (like the section on headlines and captions), the wealth of information is helpful to anyone trying to better his or her writing.
With many grammar textbooks, the reader tries to understand correct grammar and punctuation with rules explained in a confusing manner. The reader will re-read the rule a few times just get the basic idea. In Walsh's book, I found the explanations clear, witty, and helpful. I found his explanations and examples help me in developing my ear for proper grammar.
In the latter half of the book, Walsh has a stylebook with many common errors in writing. Granted, some are so specific that I don't know if they would help me (like knowing that it is Elisabeth Shue and not Elizabeth Shue). Nonetheless, I feel stronger about my grammar skills after reading this book.
I would recommend this book to all people wishing to improve their grammar skills.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grammar Fun, Dec 26 2001
This review is from: Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them (Paperback)
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. This is a great resource for the grammar aficionado.
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