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Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  4,196 ratings  ·  881 reviews
A witty, informative guide to writing "good English" from Random House's longtime copy chief and one of Twitter's leading enforcers of proper grammar--a twenty-first-century Elements of Style.

As authoritative as it is amusing, this book distills everything Benjamin Dreyer has learned from the hundreds of books he has copyedited, including works by Elizabeth Strout,
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Hardcover, 295 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Random House
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  4,196 ratings  ·  881 reviews


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Trish
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just love this book. When I first heard Terry Gross interviewing Dreyer on NPR’s Fresh Air, I thought he was trying too hard to make amusing something that can be utterly stultifying. However, when I had the chance to listen to Dreyer reading the book, published by Penguin Random House Audio, I was entranced and delighted. How can this be, you ask. It is simply perverse and counterintuitive that reading a style book on writing would be amusing.

Dreyer’s delivery is dry, dry as a bone, so-o-o
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Julie Ehlers
As a copy editor myself and a big fan of Benjamin Dreyer's Twitter presence, I was dying to get my hands on this book, and it did not disappoint. Not only is this book funny and fun to read, it's so, so helpful for anyone seeking to improve their writing or editing skills. I've been in this business for nearly 25 years and didn't think I'd actually learn anything new from Dreyer's English, but I was astonished to realize there were a few things I'd been doing wrong all this time. Maybe that ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you think I am not the kind of person to read a style guide, you are correct! I do not read them for fun or pleasure, and I try to avoid them even for professional growth. But I knew this one would be different as I've followed Dreyer on Twitter for several years (and he also follows me, full disclosure). I had enough of a hunch that it would be a true delight that I even read the AUDIOBOOK. Yes, that is correct. I read a style guide on audio. And I loved it.

The reason many of us hate style
...more
Jenna
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Best book on the English language you are likely to ever read. You'll laugh as much as you learn. Don't skip the footnotes!
Gretchen Rubin
This book is quite unlikely: a laugh-out-loud guide to grammar. It's terrific. Don't skip the footnotes.
Jeff Zentner
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What if I told you that there’s a style guide written in such an effervescent, wry, witty, engaging voice, that you would want to read it on the beach? What if I told you that it was so expertly written, you can’t help but be a better writer for having read it?

Dear reader, you are in luck. This is that magical book. This deserves a place next to Strunk & White on every shelf.
Canadian
I see that lots of people were really impressed with this book. I wasn’t. Dreyer writes in a generally lively, humorous manner, but he is often verbose, and the clarity promised in the subtitle is sometimes lacking.* As well, he is at times noncommittal, declining to weigh in clearly on some of the thornier grammar and usage issues. An undue amount of time is spent on commonly misspelled proper nouns (pertaining to the rich and famous). Little more than padding.**

I liked this book far less than
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Jenna
Like a Will Shortz of non-puzzle-specific editing genius. Entertaining, erudite, and would love to hire him as my best friend if he should ever tire of the editing game someday.
Joe Gaspard
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come for the text, but stay for the footnotes. This is a witty and informative guide to copy editing.

I might have thought that a copy editor would be hidebound, with a guide that tells you what is always right and what is always wrong. Dreyer is more open to what others might consider "wrong" (such as "liaise" as a verb), though he can still be very much peeved by "impact" used instead of "affect".

Grammar, punctuation, formatting, and word choice (did I mention that he's also a huge fan of the
...more
Teresa
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A style guide isn’t necessarily a book to read straight through, yet it's easy to do so with a guidebook as entertaining as this one.

Dreyer provides reasons for his reasoning, and I now join him (and others) in using the series comma. He gives historical background at times, as with the history behind the lie/lay confusion, and he says the reader will not like it: He’s right.

Though I did read the book straight through, I used the index to jump ahead when I needed to reference something in
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Sonya
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Delightful witty fun. (Delightful, witty fun.) (Delightful—witty—fun.) (Delightful; witty fun.)
Ana
If you think that a list of “Confusables” or “Notes on Proper Noun” would be a boring thing to read, you’d be wrong:

DAMMIT
It’s not ‘damnit,’ goddammit and damn it all to hell, and I wish people would knock it off already.”

or
GUNS N’ ROSES
That the name of this band is not Guns ’n’ Roses is vexing, but so, I suppose, is being named Axl, much less Slash.”

KEANU REEVES
Star of Bill & Ted comedies, Matrix uncomedies, and John Wick unintentional comedies.”

and my favourite:
WOOKIEE
Everyone gets it
...more
Rawan
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love books about books (Kory Stamper's Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries was one of my favorite books of 2017) and books about writing, so it's no surprise that when I saw the description for this book, I was incredibly excited to read it. A reference book by one of Twitter's leading language gurus? Right up my alley.

This is a handy little guide to writing that would make the perfect gift for any copy editor, grammarian, lover of language, or anybody who really just wants to
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Robin
This is the first book on grammar and style I've ever read cover to cover, as it was informative and highly entertaining. I found myself laughing over Dreyer's snarky wit and his keen look at today's language "rules" had me taking notes. His writing style, use of footnotes, and humor reminded me of Mary Roach's books and I believe Bill Bryson fans will also enjoy.

Everyone who does any writing (even if it's nothing but an annual holiday letter) should have a copy by their computer as there is too
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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was the most fun I’ve ever had reading a style guide. Read by the author, it’s a charming mix of unpretentious and persnickety. I got the audiobook from my library and am seriously considering buying a hard copy for myself.
Evgenia
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before reading my review, it’s only fair that you know a little something about me: I’m the type of person who early one morning (as in, 7:05 A.M. early) texted a copy editor friend asking whether to use “object” or “subject” in a sentence, and then debated the point for the remainder of an otherwise not unbusy day. That is to say, my idea of fun is not everyone’s idea of fun; I perk up when I hear a discussion on language whereas most people run for the hills.

I am nevertheless trying to set
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Bud Smith
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this. It’s written in the voice of Fraiser Crane’s little brother, Niles.
Mal Warwick
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Quick quiz: How many of the following rules do you follow when you write?

Never begin a sentence with "and" or "but."
Never split an infinitive.Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Contractions aren't allowed in formal writing.
The passive voice is to be avoided.
Sentence fragments are bad.
A person must be a "who," not a "that."
"None" is singular and, dammit, only singular.
"Whether" must never be accompanied by "or not."
Never introduce a list with "like."

If you learned English many years ago, as
...more
Olivia
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
How to use the English language properly, infused with a lot of humour, written by the copy chief of Random House.
Conor Ahern
What a treat this was! I can't give it five stars because c'mon: it's a book about usage, and fully 1/3 of it is devoted to humorous instructions that are nevertheless admonitions about how not to misspell and mix up words.

Dreyer is as clever as he is imperious, officious and cocksure. To be certain, I was listening to this on audiobook, which can often feel like a one-way conversation, but one gets the impression that it would be no different--no less rapid-fire, no less officious, no less
...more
Linda
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love books like this and this one didn't disappoint. Grammatically correct with wit, sometimes causing me to have to re-read to understand.
After this, I'm going to put my grammar police badge in a drawer. I know I'm not alone and don't have to police the entire language.
Kay (aka) Miss Bates
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never read a writing style guide in my life. I once tried to read Strunk and White: ho-hum. ‘Sides, I thought S&T advocated a spare style and I happen to think that, except for tires in real life and heirs in romance, spares should be avoided at all costs. Instead, what I found in Dreyer’s was a fount of delight and—pah to erudition—pragmatic advice. His lessons stick: before writing this, I made sure I knew the difference between “font” and “fount”; between “practical” and “pragmatic” ...more
Trin
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well! I have a new favorite grammar/style guide. Dreyer's English is friendly, approachable, amusing; I read it for fun -- yes, I am that person, no one is shocked -- but I think it would also be highly useful and useable. I love that Dreyer's approach to grammar is, like mine, self-taught and not terminology heavy, but rather based on rhythm, sound, and experience -- much, much more experience, in his case. There are things that still mess me up that he explains with great lucidity, and yet he ...more
John
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Benjamin Dreyer is a longtime executive with Random House and has over 30 years experience of writing and editing. This book is a fun, educated romp into the world of English grammar. As dry as grammar can be, this book is decidedly not dry. For anyone who has read Strunk & White's Elements of Style, Dreyer's book represents a natural progression, though much more detailed.

I honestly have nothing to criticize here: the book is helpful and eye-opening. It does offer a ton of information and
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Nooilforpacifists
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
The first two chapters were excellent — a bit like “Confessions of a Comma Queen,” only with the proportions flipped: about 3/4th grammar and 1/4 personal.

Yet by Chapter three, when Dreyer stafted what could have been interesting supplements to Strunk and White, he populates his examples with texts such as “I 100 percent made [this] up out of thin air and didn’t find on, say, Twitter”. Dryer takes particular glee correcting the tweets of America’s 45th President, not recognizing 1) unlike most
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delightful. Elucidating. A great read and a great reference.

The sideswipes at the forty-fifth president (who is never named) and his progeny (one of whom is) are subversively amusing; the anti-Brit ones slightly less so, if only because -- as a Canadian and a copy editor -- I need to use a weird amalgam of British and U.S. usage / spelling / punctuation / capitalization etc., including spaces before and after em dashes containing non-parenthetical parentheticals.* Some bits could've been
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Jolene
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is due back at the library, so I had to kind of rush through it, which is fine because the second half is very skimmable. I should note that reading Dreyer's English as a library book turns out not to be the most effective way to experience this funny and quite useful text. It would probably be BEST to own it so that when you and your partner start betting drinks over (about?) the grammar or usage of a certain turn of phrase (should "turn of phrase" be hyphenated?), you can both shout, WHAT ...more
Sara
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first heard Dreyer on the Writers on Writing podcast and he made me laugh the whole time so I had to get this book. Just like the podcast, humor is woven throughout this grammar novel in ways that will have you chuckling on every page turn. If you enjoy little language factoids (like where the terms upper and lower case really came from... answer: the moveable type shelves! The uppercase letters weren't used as often so that's where they were kept!) and if you get a kick out of knowing the ...more
Erin
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
This was a DELIGHT. If you're a giant word nerd, "Dreyer's English" is a must-read. (It's so good it had me pause to think about that hyphen before, during, and after I typed it.) It's rare that I laugh out loud while reading, and it hasn't happened with non-fiction (let alone a book about copyediting) since "Eats, Shoots & Leaves." I like to think I have a firm grasp on the language and writing and editing, but I still learned so much while reading this. FOR EXAMPLE DID YOU KNOW PREROGATIVE ...more
Elaine
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5

Dreyer covers some good ground in this, and there were many insights around grammar that I found helpful and interesting. That said, I wouldn’t rush to recommend it.

His little footnotes start of charming but quickly become tedious and quite pompous. If it was that important simply place the point in the text. It became too distracting and interruptive (like a needy dog licking your face when you’re trying to read). I ended up skipping most of them when I realised they were simply trying to be
...more
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Benjamin Dreyer is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House. He began his publishing career as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. In 1993, he became a production editor at Random House, overseeing books by writers including Michael Chabon, Edmund Morris, Suzan-Lori Parks, Michael Pollan, Peter Straub, and Calvin Trillin. He has copyedited books by authors ...more
“Only godless savages eschew the series comma.” 9 likes
“A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.” 3 likes
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