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Bryson's Dictionary: for Writers and Editors

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  37 reviews
From one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling authors, a terrifically useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers.

What is the singular form of graffiti? From what mythological figure is the word “tantalize” derived? One of the English language’s most skilled writers guides us all toward precise,
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Paperback, 464 pages
Published April 23rd 2009 by Black Swan (first published January 1st 2008)
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Michael MacKian
Dictionaries in general are wonderful thieves of time. How often one gets distracted, meandering from word to word, even forgetting the reason for opening the book in the first place. Well, Bryson's Dictionary is different. Yes, it is good for reference, giving the trickier spellings, words which are often confused, British and American uses and so on, but for a writer it can also be read from cover to cover for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. And it has the advantage that it can be put down a ...more
Jacqui
If Bernstein's the acknowledged expert on English grammar, Bill Bryson is the most famous living expert who share's his knowledge with a pinch of humility and humor.

I met Bryson reading his Short History of Nearly Everything. Therein lay the seeds of my initial distrust. How could an author who wrote such an enthralling historic book like Short History switch genres and write a successful dictionary? Shouldn't that be the job of a bibliophile or Mr. Webster's great grandson? Despite my misgiving
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Alex Telander
BRYSON'S DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS AND EDITORS BY BILL BRYSON: Bestselling author Bill Bryson has already amassed quite a career for himself with successful travel writing books like A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as books on literature and language like The Mother Tongue and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and even attempting to present a concise history of science with A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bryson now returns with Bryson's Dictionary for Writers ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Initial thoughts are that there's a lot of info I wouldn't look to this book for. If I have trouble with spelling or pronunciation I'd look at dictionary.com which references several dictionaries. Otherwise I might look something up in his book that wouldn't be in there. So, as a reference book, this doesn't seem very handy but as a general info for a quick read-through, pretty interesting. I think I'll keep it in the bathroom until I've read it.

OK, it's been in the bathroom for awhile and it ju
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lia
my god, what ego this book represents. It's a dictionary, of words and phrases that Bryson has found or thinks you will find troublesome/interesting. Many without definitions? So, you get to hear about the difference between leech and leach and lay and lie, and how some (what fools!) confuse laudable and laudatory. Its a highly personal book, that he compiled over many many years--pre home computer years-- but still, it seems almost totally useless. I would either use a regular dictionary (my fa ...more
Joanna
Delightful to meander through, this "dictionary" limits itself to words and topics that editors must frequently fact-check. The words phrases and abbreviations are listed alphabetically, and I imagine it would be useful were I an editor. As a person who merely enjoys words, I found that it did not work well as a reference. (I tried to look one thing up that turned out not to be listed, a random test, but a test failed nevertheless.) I laughed aloud several times at the concise and opinionated ph ...more
Amy
This book was so excellent. Bryson includes all variety of useful things, from definitions to the correct spelling of confusing words, to cross-references and connotations that may get a "serious" writer into trouble. Bryson bases some of his entries on opinion, but in most cases, his opinion is itself based on a long and illustrious writing career as well as multiple referenced sources. In only a few cases did I disagree with his logic, and only once did I find an actual mistake Ulysses was not ...more
Daniel Taylor
How lucky writers and editors are to have this reference work from Bill Bryson!

A bestselling author himself across a variety of creative nonfiction genres, in this book he's opened up his toolkit to improve the craft of harried writers and perfectionist writers everywhere.

He keeps his prose simple and concise, but his signature humor is there and his aptitude for storytelling.

I say this every time I review one of his books: Bill Bryson is the best living writer in the English language.
DJL
I'm "finished" with perusing through this fascinating writing resource. It's not so much a book one reads cover to cover (unless you have a habit of reading dictionaries cover to cover for fun, I'm definitely not one to judge since I do enjoy the Online Etymology Dictionary). This is more a book to test the waters and see if it is indeed a good resource for writers, and as an amateur writer, I think it's one worth having on the shelves at home.
Wolfman
I don't know if I can really say I "read" this because it is a reference book. I checked it out and looked through it, but nothing captured my attention. It is the kind of book I wish I owned so that when I do have one of those weird language or spelling questions (like "Do you capitalize rock and roll?"), I would have a resource. I like Bryson a lot, but this isn't quite as entertaining as most of his travelogues and other books.
Sergio GRANDE films
Mea culpa. It's not Bryson's fault but entirely my own.

Whenever I want to check the spelling of a word or its meaning, I wouldn't come to this book; I knew it before I clicked 'buy'. So why did I? Bryson, I guess.

Not a great dictionary, not a great book. Still an entertaining piece to kill time reading a couple of words or pages at a time while you wait for your flight to be called or the cab to arrive.
Helena
"Read" is the wrong term here. It's a reference, so "flipped through" is more accurate. If I find myself doing a lot of copyediting again it might be useful to add to my collection--most of the info is available in other places, including online with a quick Google search, but as Bryson points out, it's nice to have it in one place so you don't have to hunt for it.
Kami
This is a really fun collection of trivia and information for writers. It isn't the kind of book that you read cover to cover, but one that I'll pick up often when I have a few moments and just want to learn something new and interesting.
Mary-Lynn
Jul 27, 2010 Mary-Lynn marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary-Lynn by: found it while browsing at Ukazoo
(adding to the title)...and People Who Give a Damn about Grammar, Usage and Correctness

I'm really excited to have this book join my library. Sometimes, a dictionary just isn't enough and Google is just beyond reach (no internet access).
Sarah
Jan 06, 2011 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Dad
My parents sent this to me as a birthday present.

Update: I'm reading a few pages of this every night before bed. I'm really enjoying it. If you are the sort of person who has a favorite dictionary, you should check this out.
Melissa
A fun reference book for spelling, misused phrases and the like It is perfect for those times when you are not sure if you should use effect or affect - Bryson puts them together and gives the meaning of each.
Jenne
An enjoyable book to flick through and dip into. Even Bryson's humour comes through in his explanations. A great dictionary for writers and people who just can't spell!
Kerri
I love everything he writes, and this dictionary is no exception. Who thought reading a dictionary would be so much fun!?! Makes me love words even more than I already did!
Crystal
One of the most practical and useful guides to usage I've come across. Every once in a while I like to flip to a random page, just to see what I might learn today.
Anna~
Good to have on hand for anyone who likes to read... a reference book you can pick up, randomly select a page, read for 2 mins, and learn 10 things.
Kari
Fascinated and obsessed by the first 50 pages, then got (expectedly) repetitive. Still, I learned a lot and am glad I pushed on through.
Ryan
I'll be using this book for years to come. Not just for writers, but for anyone who enjoys trivia (or just knowing more stuff).
Cynthia .
A must-read and a must-have for all writers/bloggers. The very first dictionary I've every consumed word after word.
Beth
Sep 16, 2008 Beth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: word dorks
I skimmed this, because, well, it's a dictionary. But I had to pick it up since it's by one of my favorite authors.
Barbara
Anyone who loves language and words will love this. Not to read per se, but to browse with delight.
Jen
I still remember that Col o mbia is a country and Col u mbia is everything else. ...more
Cyberpope
I read it cover to cover -- VERY good stuff -- clarifies a lot of subtleties; a good read for a dictionary!
George
Really meant as a reference book, but I read it straight through. Fun for anyone who loves words.
Steven
Very good reference (and breezy read) for some of the more commonly hit grammatical speed bumps.
Lane Willson


I bounced around in it really, more than read it. And it was fascinating.
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Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first t
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More about Bill Bryson...
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail A Short History of Nearly Everything Notes from a Small Island In a Sunburned Country At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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