This is my new #1 language reference. It's pragmatic, up-to-date, and often funny. Dreyer explains his decisions, and indicates which rules are more flexible than others. He admits to granting himself some personal exceptions. The footnotes are particularly good.
Dreyer also speaks from a solid platform, as a lead editor at a busy and famous publishing house. He does this stuff all day, every day, assuming that his energetic Twitter presence (which I also recommend highly) is a personal-time thing.)
I suggest buying multiple copies, because you will want to give some as gifts. Yes, it's that good. And I am not B. Dreyer's mom; I have never met him.
Anyone who has any interest in writing will truly enjoy this book. Dreyer manages to be entertaining and funny even when his topic is grammar. He is constantly informative and will free up your writing from some restrictive rules at the same time as he makes you rethink your use of certain words - “ bemused” doesn’t actually mean “ faintly amused”. His years-of being a-copy editor have taught him to be very precise in his use of language and he hopes all who read his book will become similarly precise.
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer is an English writing style guide. It is also a collection of essays from a erudite and humorous writer commenting on culture, movies, books, and history. Oh, and grammar and spelling. Dreyer refers to the over-use of sentence fragments to “establish a sort of hairy, sweaty, unbathed masculine narrative voice” that ends up sounding like asthma. He warns that using too many parenthetical asides leads the author to seem like “a dandy in a Restoration comedy stepping down to the footlights and curling his hand around his mouth to confidently address the audience.” These are just a couple of the passages in the book that had me laughing out loud in an entirely unladylike fashion. I loved all of the informative (and irreverent and snarky) footnotes. One small irritant: In the proper noun section, small capitals are used to represent lower case letters. In many names the presence of lower case in some letters was one of the distinctions Dreyer was trying to make but I found I had to go back and carefully look at the names to figure out what he was describing.
This is a book to read and enjoy (perhaps not in public because of the snorting-with-laughter problem). It is also a book to keep and use as a reference for anyone who wishes to improve their writing. Lastly, it is a book to treasure for all grammar and word nerds.
I never expected to enjoy a book about proper language so much. Not only is Mr. Dreyer's English Utterly Correct, it is as playful as the subtitle. Also, I learned some things. Highly recommended for editors and authors and anyone who enjoys words.
Witty. Wry. Wonderful. There aren't enough W's to describe Dreyer's opus (Yes, I'm going with "opus" because it's Monday and I can). It will make you a better writer. It might even make you a better person.