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A Dictionary of Modern American Usage

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,147 ratings  ·  88 reviews
In every age, writers and editors need guidance through the thickets of English usage. Although some language issues are perennial (infer vs. imply), many others spring anew from the well of English:
* Is it all right to say alums instead of alumni or alumnae? And should it be spelled alums or alumns?
* Should I say empathic or empathetic? Do you home in or hone in? Is it
Hardcover, First Edition, 752 pages
Published December 3rd 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Average rating 4.61  · 
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 ·  1,147 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: a dan after my own heart
Thanks, Dan! Receiving this book justified my having dragged myself out last night, and made the long G-to-the-A trek home totally bearable, even the part at the end when I was walking home from the train and a group of guys yelled out that they wanted to gang rape me. Hah hah! I just chuckled to myself, knowing that if any of them came close I could brain them with my lethally massive new hardcover Garner's, and then point out some finer points of American usage while the ungrammatical would-be ...more
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I want to do dirty things to this book.
Nick Black
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Twitch, DFW
my best friend Twitch gave me this at trivia 2010-12-26. i promptly brought it home and read, enthralled, until 0545 or so. my date was pissed off, but Mssr. Garner and I danced the night away. every true pedant ought acquire and become intimate with a copy. beyond that, i can't say much more beyond DFW's Harper's review (which anyone not damaged in a profound, Oliver Sacksish-way will enjoy).

as another reviewer below has already claimed, this will likely find place on my desk as the first non-m
The hell with Strunk and White. This is the only book you will ever need.
Jul 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: language geeks
I poke around in this massive volume, read Garner's brilliant little mini-essays about usage, and a warm, geeky feeling blooms in my chest. Just about the best book on language and its use I've come across. It's like a box of bon-bons if you like this sort of thing. ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've wanted a copy of this for many years, since hearing David Foster Wallace and author Bryan Garner chat about Wallace's terrific review/article Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage (a greatly expanded version of which appears in Wallace's book Consider the Lobster, which, cover to cover, I recommend highly.) I finally got my copy of Garner's a couple weeks ago and it's now part of my home's landscape: It's not going on a shelf. It never disappoints, although it can ...more
Amar Pai
Update 9/25/12: so, I bought this book. Glad I did-- been flipping through it some more, and it's quite fascinating. Garner can be quite funny even if he is a snoot.

I have to admit though-- upon further reflection, I still don't get the distinction between "erstwhile" and "former". I re-read Garner's explanation, in which he opines that erstwhile is necessary because "former" and "one-time" aren't sufficient, and realized that he never actually explains when you'd use one vs the other! The singl
Marc Cooper
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

As a Brit, Americanisms can grate; as can native speakers, at times, truth be told. I bear no ill will. We share a language that diverges and yet often converges owing to our connected world. Bryan brings much of our shared language together sensitively and absorbingly.

If you love language, then this book is a thing of beauty.
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: Sam Van Horne
Shelves: owned
A bowl of cereal and one page from Garner's Modern American Usage is my favorite way to start the day. I haven't been reading this book in the morning so I'm taking it off my list of book currently reading. ...more
Sara Russell
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My talisman against poor language. I call it my "smarty-pants book." ...more
4 stars & 4/10 hearts. So, granted, I didn’t actually read a lot of this book. I bought it for college, and we read two-three essays and a few entires. Regardless, I definitely see it’s something very useful and that I will be consulting a lot. Garner has a very good perspective as a descriptivist prescriber, and his essays are very good. I shall probably update this review as I use this book more, but for now, it was quite worth buying, it’s well written, and it’s very interesting.
Atlas Publishing
Modern English Usage is an indispensable book for writers, editors, and those who give a damn about English. Along with Steven Pinker Steven Pinker , Amy Einsohn, and Carol Fisher Saller Carol Fisher Saller , Garner Bryan A. Garner is one of the world's foremost authorities on the English language. In a world that takes its syntactic cues from the idiotic rantings of media personalities, sportswriters, and (mostly) guys on TV competing to see who can construct the most tautologies during 30-second bursts of inanity, Modern English ...more
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of the myriad dictionaries, grammar books and usage guides out there, one stands out as the argument-ender: Garner’s.
Why is this book so special? Several reasons:
First, it’s comprehensive. Pretty much any question you can think of concerning usage is covered in the nearly 1,000 pages of this book, with detailed explanations, the usage’s history and examples from print. It doesn’t just tell what’s correct or acceptable, it tells you why.
Second, the man knows of which he speaks. His concise, thoug
Erin Brenner
Bryan Garner has a specific approach to language usage and Garner’s Modern English Usage, the fourth edition of his usage advice, teaches it to others.

I can’t fully endorse that approach, however. While Garner wants his recommendations to be “genuinely plausible,” recognizing the language “as it currently stands,” actual usage is at the bottom of his criteria and can easily be trumped by other criteria, not all of which are objective.

For example, the guide marks a word as undesirable if it is ne
Kim Zinkowski
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ten plus months at 5-10 pages per day and I have finally finished. This book, as one can imagine, is very informative. It is also, at times, quite amusing in a grammarian's manner. I did learn that I was mispronouncing (internally as I read) several words. I also came to realize that the words you read are not necessarily the ones that you use in speech. ...more
Dennis Littrell
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Roll over Fowler; tell Partridge the news...

This is a brilliant book. It is as erudite and authoritative as a usage book should be, but without offensive cant or needless pedantry. It is scrupulously edited and handsomely presented by the Oxford University Press in their usual exemplary manner. While Bryan A.Garner concentrates on American English usage (that's where the market is) he is no stranger to "BrE" or any other kind of English. Just to give you a hint about what makes the man tick and
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, I don't know that I would say I read Garner's, exactly.

The forward, about the grammar wars, is a terrific read. Otherwise, I rely heavily on Garner's when I have usage questions, just as any right-thinking person would.
Quite simply the most current and comprehensive book of rhetoric. This indispensable tome is as entertaining as it is educational.
Alex Macd
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this book more than five stars. An invaluable resource for anyone who writes.
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nobody really reads this but I can't believe nobody ever told me it existed until law school. An essential reference for the question "am I using this word correctly?" ...more
Jacob Norman
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book from an essay by David Foster Wallace called Authority and American Usage. Wallace had great things to say about Garner and his massive effort at compiling this usage guide. And yes, it is a usage guide, not a dictionary--despite my friends' insistence on it being a dictionary.

There are two types of entries in this book: word entries and essay entries. The word entries are short and interesting, containing information on use, misuse, pronunciation, and meaning. The essay
Mark Mathes
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
When you open this helpful book, you're greeted by 100 common editorial comments for editors, writers and publishers on a single page. Chicago Manual of Style, take note on ease of use. From cliches to the em dash to quotation marks, you can quickly find the answer by page number. The author encourages editors to simply mark the text they are editing with a key in this book. Handy for editors and authors, teachers and students who use this book. Many entries have examples in media, books and con ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work is the best current usage guide to good English and may be the greatest usage guide ever written. Garner is to the 21st century what H.W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage was to the 20th. He fills the void left by modern dictionaries and guides that are too squeamish to give sound advice on speaking and writing good Standard English. I teach rhetoric and tell all my students: "If this book becomes a trusted, frequently consulted, lifelong friend to you, I shall count my time ...more
Christopher Collins
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Superb reference for writers, English-language educators, and those who have an interest in the language itself. No, I did not read this cover to cover; I read only the “essay entries” that are listed in the front of the book. I expect I will be referring to this book on a regular basis; it’s useful and an impressive piece of scholarship.
Farhan Samir
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I keep this book by my side every time I write an important document. It offers pragmatic, evidence-based advice on idiomatic writing. Additionally, it's more entertaining to read than a considerable amount of fiction works.

I'll probably be referring to Modern American Usage for the rest of my life.
Stacey Douglas
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, reference, writing
Garner is the expert on standard, modern English grammar and usage. When you think you want to disagree or quibble with him, further thought usually renders your quibble or disagreement null. Wisdom, sensibility, and practicality fill Garner's remarks and guidance. I can't image writing and editing, esp. non-fiction materials, without consulting GMEU. Use it; it'll make you happy. ...more
Sooho Lee
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an unbelievably helpful book. An absolute necessity for academics and other writers.

Used only the 4th edition (2016): Garner's Modern English Usage (GMEU).
Steve Dwyer
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my go-to guide on all language questions. Could not live without it.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally I finished this book!
Mar 10, 2012 added it
Recommends it for: Lynda
Shelves: unfinished, unrated
As a result of not finishing this book, I did not rate it. In particular, this review is not zero stars.

It is a folly for me to write a review of this volume, given the limited ability I have for the construction of prose, made even more limited by the fact that I have already returned this book to the library. I apologize to the individuals who attend to the nuanced use of English as found in this book, who care not only for choosing the appropriate words and constructions, but who are so in c
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