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Troublesome Words

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,754 ratings  ·  170 reviews
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Paperback, 192 pages
Published 1997 by Penguin (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  2,754 ratings  ·  170 reviews


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Aaron Brame
I taught middle school grammar for six years, and my favorite part of the grammar book (didn't you have a favorite part of the middle school grammar book?) was always the glossary of usage. I saved that part of the curriculum for the end of the year, like a desert that you look forward to throughout a long meal.

"Class, do you know when to use 'fewer' instead of 'less'? No? Oh, goodie."

After the joyful experience I had reading A Short History of Nearly Everything, I wanted to check out more Brys
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Jeanette (Again)
I read this book two times in about six months, so I think I'm done with the cover to cover work. I have it marked and highlighted and handy for reference.

Along with discussions of spelling and usage, Bryson includes many examples of incorrect usage from well-known publications and authors (including his very august self). The examples let you see what it looks like when it's done wrong, and you may recognize your own errors in those of other people. It's also nice to know that even the profess
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Tim
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

description
I might be starting towards lexophilia, but this book is the only dictionary/ thesaurus that I can seriously read. That is sit and read through it one word at a time. The only disadvantage is that it tends to make one nervous in one's own writing and want to check everything with Bryson just in case you have just made another almighty clanger.

It was given to my by a lovely friend and it has proven to be a delight, you can't categorize it well, it isn't really a dictionary and it's not a thesaur
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Matthew
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This book definitely earns a 5 star rating, I'm just not sure who to recommend it to:

Professional writers and grammar nerds will love the book's utility; this is a resource I know I'll be returning to often. For example, if all I'm trying to do is spell or define a word then I'll pull out a basic dictionary. But what if three different words seem to have identical definitions, are there situations I'm supposed to use one word over another? Or let's say I see several respected publications handle
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Karen Brooks
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant little book and a must read/desk companion for professional writers. Arranged alphabetically, it basically explains correct spellings, etymology and meanings of various words and the mistakes that even lovers of words and writing can make. For example when to use compliment or complement; when to parlay or attend a parley. He explains the real meaning of condone (which is not to approve or endorse but to forgive - whoops!) and takes his time over who and whom. He also explain ...more
Emmkay
I think I'm in love. Be still, my geeky, grammar- and word-loving heart! I had the satisfying experience of coming across entries that reinforced my own pet peeves (e.g. the misuse of 'fulsome,' the confusion of 'tortuous' and 'torturous'). But still more satisfyingly, I learned plenty more that I did not already knew, and also learned explanations for things that I knew only by instinct. Marvellous!
Kariss Ainsworth
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This hurt my dyslexic brain!
Summer
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks who like words
I really enjoyed this, but then I do sometimes read the dictionary for fun. I found Bryson’s expectations of correct usage to be insightful and realistic. I appreciate his examples of incorrect usage.

An example of something I have applied to my own writing is the entry for include. He writes, "include indicates that what is to follow is only part of a greater whole. To use it when you are describing a totality is sloppy, as here: “The 630 job losses include 300 in Redcar and 330 in Port Talbot”
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Carin
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my quest to read all of Mr. Bryson's books, some are easier than others. But I have to say that, for a grammar nerd who loves words, this was a joy. It did take me a long time as I didn't want to read too much at once for fear it would run out of my ears, but I learned a lot and I will be hanging onto this as a reference book for a long time to come.

Did you know the phrase is to the manner born, not manor? Oops. Me neither. Did you know a koala is not a koala bear? That one I did learn last y
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Charles
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic-writing
Excellent book. There was much here I just didn't know, and a lot of other material that I might once have known but had forgotten. I actually read through the entire thing, although it would be a great browsing book for anyone who wants to write or who just loves langauge. I got several blog posts out of the interesting material I found within.
Max Tsudowood
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It turns out that inputting a period at the end of abbreviated words like Dr., Mr., and St. are all wrong because the custom is that the punctuation is added when the last letter of abbreviation is the last letter of the full word (e.g. Dr for Doctor) but not for all other instances (e.g. Capt. for Captain). In a lengthy segment devoted to comma, which Bryson calls the "the most abused of all punctuation marks", when a second clause in a sentence could stand alone as a sentence it has to be with ...more
Ericka
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a book to read straight through, but a good reference book when you have usage, grammar, or spelling questions. Journalists, bloggers, or anyone else who wants to make a living by their writing or communication skills would benefit from this book.
Shivam Kalra
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be a must-read book anyone who writes professionally. However, this is not to say that others should not read it. Everyone absolutely should. One who writes professionally, not necessarily a writer or author, however, must.

Besides being a dictionary-like book, it is sarcastically funny and has hint of grumpiness that Bill Bryson is well know for. A question popped in my head after finishing it, which was put into my head by a friend: Is there any topic that Bill Bryson hasn't written
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Martin
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What began as a lark as a welcome break for the old noodle after reading some mind-bending books became something much more serious.

I like books, words, and books about words. This doesn't take much brain-power - but this was different. This was quite a serious, thorough, quite complete run-through of the most common bugaboos that need addressing.

I thought Bryson was a bit overstuffy at first, but then realized how useful and relevant all his advice is. Halfway through the book, I then realized
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Daniel Taylor
As this is a reference book, only the most committed logophile will read it from cover to cover.

The book has one section, "Troublesome Words", and an appendix, "Punctuation".

What makes this guide to correct English stand out from the cluttered shelves of similar books is two things. Bryson delivers his advice with his trademark humor that readers of any of his other books will immediately recognize. That itself leads to the second point — Bryson isn't some grammarian tucked away in the dusty sta
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Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)
What an organised mind Bryson must have, to be able to put together such a needed collection of information. I would find it hard to believe that a single person exists that wouldn't learn something from this book, I know I've been corrected on several things. I had no idea that Americans use the word 'homely' differently than Britons do, or that we shouldn't say 'I feel nauseous'.

Everyone who's serious about writing (especially journalists) should take a look at this book. I assure you that it
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Curtis
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an actual reference book, so I'm not sure I'll ever finish reading it.
Grace
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
every writer should have this book for reference
Ali Almossawi
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend, having read an article I’d written on the topic,* recommended this book to me. I thought I’d covered all the main pain points in my nine pages. Bryson’s treatment is 230 pages long. A pedant’s pedant! I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to bring a bit more consistency to his or her writing, and to dispel sources of potential ambiguity.

I enjoyed learning that it’s filet mignon, but fillet for all other dishes. I’d never thought about it. That flak,
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Barbara Nutting
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This not a book you actually read, you peruse it over and over. I’m going to have to return this to the library and buy a copy of my own, to refer to over and over.

I have done the NYT Crossword puzzle every day for as long as I can remember and thought I had a pretty good grasp on the English language. Well, I don’t! I was amazed at all the errors made every day by everyone.


Lie and lay were my Mother’s pet peeve, you lay a book down, you lie in the sun. I always wanted to lay by the pool - to th
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Peter
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
A book to dip into and enjoy. Mr Brysons' wit and writing are what bring a potentially bland word book to life.

Highly recommended.
Gabrielle
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy
This is a great style and usage book, and it certainly gave me an ass whipping! I thought I was pretty good with all things grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage. I definitely was surprised by many items in this book. As a reference book I think it would be a bit tricky to use -- so many of the things that were new to me are so wrong in my head that I don't think I'd remember to double check the guide book for clarification. I hope some of the new information sticks.
Scott
I'm working my way through this one, cover to cover, in between chapters of whatever else I am reading at the moment.
Russell Bittner
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Bill Bryson makes abundantly clear with his many citations throughout this compendium to Henry Fowler and Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words should not stand alone on any writer’s library shelf. Rather, the two tomes should stand side by side and should cast a reciprocally respectable glow, one upon the other. Though belonging to very different eras, Fowler and Bryson are both scholars in the finest sense of the word – and their works are true ...more
Matt Hooper
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm running out of Bill Bryson books to read. I've taken to reading his dictionary.

"Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right" was the author's first published book (it has undergone several updates since debuting in 1984). If you are unfamiliar with the author, then please allow this brief contextual diversion.

Bill Bryson has written several humorous, erudite and grouchy travelogues, hiking memoirs, and scientific explainers. Born and raised in Des Moines, I
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Linda
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book to sit down and read from beginning to end. It is more a reference book, and also very good for browsing. Bryson was a copy editor in England in the 1980’s and here he lists common mistakes in usage and spelling, with delightful paragraphs and examples of correct and incorrect sentences. Although I didn’t read it chronologically, I browsed enough to have read practically the whole book, and I enjoyed it. He has written other books about the English language and I will probabl ...more
Colleen
Aug 05, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am always reading this type of book to glimpse into the world of those smarties that I believe secretly carry a red felt pen with them to correct the incorrect grammar of the rest of us.

I always learn that I have been misusing or mispronouncing some word or another, this makes me think that reading through the book has been validated, until I catch myself using that same word incorrectly again.
Cathy
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned many things from this book. Did you know there is no rule against split infinitives? I was also reminded to just forget about the word 'very'.

In fact, I think I'm going to buy this to use it as a quick and easy reference, much easier than using a dictionary or maybe even dictionary.com.
Syntactical Disruptorize
This is a charming book on words writers often get wrong, but it misses its target, through no fault of the author. If you know enough to look in this book, much less own it, you probably cared enough to get it right in the first place. It's an okay book to wave in someone's face to let them know just how wrong they are, but that's a nasty use of Bryson's self-effacing, gentle style.
Jana
Nov 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-stars
Recommended for people who are already fans of linguistics, grammar, and clear explanations of the rules governing both. Bryson writes clearly and concisely, providing many examples of words which can be troublesome indeed.
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William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS 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.

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