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Troublesome Words

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,361 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
Why should I avoid discussing the 'weather conditions'?

Can a woman be 'celibate'?

When can I use 'due to', or should I play safe and always use 'because of'?

What's wrong with the way I'm using 'crescendo'?

This book provides a simple guide to the more perplexing and contentious issues of standard written English. The entries are discussed with wit and common sense, and are i
Paperback, 242 pages
Published September 26th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 1984)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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
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
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 thesauru
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
Karen Brooks
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant little book amd 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
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”
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!
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
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.
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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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong Title 5 17 Apr 08, 2016 12:50AM  
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William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS

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 Con
More about Bill Bryson...
“Before, prior to. There is no difference between these two except length and a certain affectedness on the part of 'prior to.' To paraphrase Bernstein, if you would use 'posterior to' instead of 'after,' then by all means use 'prior to' instead of 'before.” 13 likes
“One idea to a sentence is still the best advice that anyone has ever given on writing.” 8 likes
More quotes…