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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

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Curmudgeon Needs Help from Tougher Curmudgeon
Mr. Walsh announces breezily that he "couldn't diagram a sentence if my life depended on it." We can tell he can't from the excerpt. He is ignorant and proud of being so; moreover, he wants to proselytize his ignorance under the false promise of making grammar easy. This excerpt shows that Mr. Walsh suffers from lazy reliance on the pronouns "it" and...
Published on June 18 2001 by LEE D. DECESARE


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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 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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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 O for a correctly placed hyphen..., Nov. 19 2001
By 
Jennifer Mathews Land "catwhisprr" (Tuscaloosa, AL 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)
Bill Walsh knows a good hyphen, and more importantly, he can tell you where to put it.
This book will probably never find a niche on my shelf; no doubt it will be within arm's reach on my desk at all times. Why? Because in this book Walsh reminds us that there are reasons for the rules that shape editorial policy. We must know the reasons behind the rules in order to know when to appropriately ignore the rules.
Novice copy editors (and writers and editors) may be horrified to read such a suggestion, but you don't have to have been seated in the slot for long to learn that there are times when all good rules will bend a little. Not that rules were made to be broken, but sometimes the hard line isn't the best line to take. Walsh makes that point time after time -- and he makes it well. I don't agree with all of his entries (I will strike through "over" and replace it with "more than"), but the logic is sound.
If you are ever in a position to proofread/edit/copy edit someone's writing, you'll need a stylebook you can point to and say "See? It's just fine to put the hyphen in there!" This is a good book to have in your arsenal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read with compelling style rationale, Nov. 30 2000
By 
Jim Grey (Indianapolis, IN 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)
This engaging little book is as much a satisfying read as it is a handy reference. Yes, the book comprises Bill Walsh's positions on grammar, punctuation, and usage. Any curmudgeonly editor has positions. But Walsh offers compelling, practical arguments for his positions. Anyone whose work I've edited will readily attest to my own personal curmudgeonly positions. In an afternoon of reading Walsh's book, and to the probable shock of several of the authors with whom I've worked, I have changed several of mine, such as:
- (p. 84) I have ceased to use the en dash to separate numeral ranges. - (p. 128) I have ceased to automatically replace all instances of "different than" with "different from." I now first consider whether the comparison is indirect; if so, "than" stays.
I also learned the error of my ways in a few areas I'm too embarrassed to mention.
Walsh's book collects content he used to keep on his Web site. His site continues to feature the book's "sharp points," so if you'd like to try before you buy, check out website
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5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect book! Well, it's really good, anyway., Aug. 8 2000
By 
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 admit it -- I'm one of those people who can sit in a cornerreading a book on grammar and be perfectly content for hours. I'm also one of those lucky enough to have stumbled across Bill Walsh's Web site...several years ago. Here in this fabulous book he has transferred most of the good advice from his Web site, so that I can now carry it with me wherever I go. (Would I actually do that? Hmm ...)
Bill makes the subject of grammar not only readable, but fun. Yes, I said "fun"! He argues against some of the "silly taboos" of ancient grammatical rules, but he also makes suggestions about when to go along with the rules even if they don't make sense, "if only to avoid the scorn of the misinformed legions." His examples are often hilarious: "Individuals who need individuals are the luckiest individuals in the world"; "Why does Paul McCartney want me to live on his piano?" (You'll have to look in the book for an explanation.)
No, I'm not on his payroll, but I am in his debt. I've used his advice to help me decide how to rewrite a sentence (I don't always agree with him, but it's a real rarity when I don't) and used his examples to add humor to my day. Once you get the book, don't be surprised if you look up how to use a semicolon and find yourself still reading the book a half hour later, chuckling all the way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read with compelling style rationale, Nov. 30 2000
By 
Jim Grey (Indianapolis, IN 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)
This engaging little book is as much a satisfying read as it is a handy reference. Yes, the book comprises Bill Walsh's positions on grammar, punctuation, and usage. Any curmudgeonly editor has positions. But Walsh offers compelling, practical arguments for his positions. Anyone whose work I've edited will readily attest to my own personal curmudgeonly positions. In an afternoon of reading Walsh's book, and to the probable shock of several of the authors with whom I've worked, I have changed several of mine, such as:
- (p. 84) I have ceased to use the en dash to separate numeral ranges.
- (p. 128) I have ceased to automatically replace all instances of "different than" with "different from." I now first consider whether the comparison is indirect; if so, "than" stays.
I also learned the error of my ways in a few areas I'm too embarrassed to mention.
Walsh's book collects content he used to keep on his Web site.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and convincing book, Dec 27 2000
By 
Kristin S. (Vermont, U.S.) - 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)
After having "the media are" drilled into my head through four years of journalism school, I screamed when Bill Walsh said it's OK to say "the media is." However, I have to admit he has a point, and he states it well.
Walsh says it is difficult to "truly understand the reasons behind the rules -- and therefore know when they should be ignored." He knows enough about grammar to be able to give legitimate reasons for ignoring some rules.
This is not your grandmother's grammar. "Web site" vs. "website" and "e-mail" vs. "email" are the subjects of several rants. And Walsh casts his blessing on split infinitives and sentences beginning with conjunctions.
Throughout these grammar and style lessons, Walsh's writing is interesting, fresh, convincing, intelligent and, yes, funny.
This is a book for grammar-geeks and grammar-phobes alike.
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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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