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Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style from the Copy Chief of Random House

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  6,475 ratings  ·  1,264 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 Elizab
...more
Kindle Edition, 293 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Random House
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 ·  6,475 ratings  ·  1,264 reviews


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Trish
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 dr
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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 does ...more
K.J. Charles
A joyously readable book, in which any editor will roll around like a cat in catnip. Highly entertaining, terrific use of footnotes for comedy effect, some great stories, and lots of helpful stuff (by God I will get callus right one day). Perhaps the most helpful point, repeated often, is that *he looks things up all the time*. The PRH copy chief doesn't remember what's right in some cases and is aware he doesn't, so he looks it up to get it right. That's a hint, authors, take it.

Also really ap
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Jessica Woodbury
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 g
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Jenna
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
Gretchen Rubin
This book is quite unlikely: a laugh-out-loud guide to grammar. It's terrific. Don't skip the footnotes. ...more
Canadian Reader
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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Jeff Zentner
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Michael Finocchiaro
Benjamin Dreyer does a great job of avoiding boring the reader with grammatical rules and advice by being brash and ironic throughout. I found it to be entertaining reading and thought there was good advice tucked in between the jokes. Reading it in electronic format was not ideal because it is the kind of book you want on your writing shelf next to your dictionary and the ebook format does not easily lend itself to that.
Teresa
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 partic
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Joe Gaspard
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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Kimber
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
This has got to be the most pleasurable book on English ever written.
Anna
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 wro
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Jessica
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nonfiction
Simple, hilarious guide to common English usage and the very common mistakes that plague us. Or, to be more exact: the things that we think are totally right, but that long-suffering copyeditors (like Dreyer) hate to see. You've got your their/there/they're, your/you're and than/then. But you've also got Moby-Dick and Far From the Madding Crowd . . . or is it Far From The Madding Crowd? E. E. Cummings, or eecummings? Dreyer sets it all straight with wit and warmth. ...more
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.
Rawan
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 impro
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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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Sonya
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Delightful witty fun. (Delightful, witty fun.) (Delightful—witty—fun.) (Delightful; witty fun.)
Beth
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Here is, in no particular order, a list of peeves:

1. Writing “re” without a colon - this is re: the many times I spotted that, and I twitched every time.

2. Writing okay as “OK” consistently in caps: jarring.

3. Capitalizing any word after a colon, whether it does or does not begin an independent clause, makes me want to take a red pen to the page. (Side note: I had a teacher who had a policy never to use red pen. She felt it was too aggressive.)

4. I didn’t much like the organization of this book.
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
"Only godless savages eschew the series comma."

"Before we get to what you do use apostrophes for, let's recount what you don't use them for.
Step back, I'm about to hit the CAPS LOCK key.
DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO USE AN APOSTROPHE TO PLURALIZE A WORD.
'NOT EVER' AS IN 'NEVER.'
You may reapproach."

"Lately one encounters people referring to any full-length book, even a work of nonfiction, as a novel. That has to stop."

"...Two Words Where One Will Do...
free gift...
join together...
kneel down...
last of al
...more
Evgenia
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.¹ 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 as
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Karen Foster
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Loved it. Witty, helpful and completely delightful! I listened to the audiobook with print copy in hand, which really enhanced the experience for me. Benjamin Dreyer is charming and hilarious, and persnickety in the best of ways.
Bud Smith
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this. It’s written in the voice of Fraiser Crane’s little brother, Niles.
Nadine
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oddly enough, this book turned out to be my comfort reading during the last days of the 2020 US presidential election. Dreyer is an archly amusing guide through the world of punctuation and word choice, and doesn't dip into any frightening grammar territory. Here's a sample writing tip: "Go light on exclamation points in dialogue. No, even lighter than that. Are you down to none yet? Good." I realize now that I've never given punctuation the love it deserves for guiding me through all the wonder ...more
Mal Warwick
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Kay (aka) Miss Bates
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” (not ...more
Olivia
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
How to use the English language properly, infused with a lot of humour, written by the copy chief of Random House.
britt_brooke
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Oh, this was fun! A writing style guide on audio? Yep, it works. Perfect narration. I had no trouble visualizing the “text.” Dreyer’s many punctuation and grammar examples are clever and often funny. Just what I needed!
Mike
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This was a rather engaging and easily accessible book about common writing missteps from the editor of a major publishing house. While covering a lot of missteps and misconceptions about writing the author is not afraid to make his self-admitted bias obvious or simply defer to the bookstopper writing guides that exist out there. This book isn't meant to be an end-all-be-all of writing style, merely a tool to help a writer navigate the English language. It is written with a great sense of humor ( ...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 inc ...more

Articles featuring this book

Perhaps we're biased, but we believe books are the perfect gift for any occasion. And it doesn't have to be stressful...
81 likes · 23 comments
“Only godless savages eschew the series comma.” 15 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.” 5 likes
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