Alexandria's Reviews > The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English

The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark
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's review
Feb 15, 2012

it was amazing
Recommended to Alexandria by: N/A
Recommended for: writers

Yes, I read a book about grammar, that magical glue that ties together our thoughts and ideas and helps us communicate with one another. And yes, I liked it.

Roy Peter Clark, longtime teacher at the Poynter Institute, is funny, down-to-earth (he even uses the f-word) and easy to understand. The full title of this book is, "The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English," and Clark's enthusiasm for the English language is inspiring.

I picked up this book after a particularly satisfying week of copyediting at the Columbia Missourian. I had just subscribed to the Grammar Girl and Regret the Error blogs, I started regularly looking up words in the dictionary and I was feeling motivated to learn more about grammar. When I saw "The Glamour of Grammar" on the shelf of selected books at the MU Journalism Library, I figured it was fate. I grabbed my student ID, checked out the book and turned the first page that night.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it is an easy read, written in journalism style. Clark presents his grammar lessons in two to three page chapters, with a "keepsakes" list at the end to detail the main points of the chapter. But even if you chose to read 50 or 100 pages at a time, the lessons weren't so riddled with rules to be difficult to remember. Personally, Clark brought up a lot of grammar lessons I was already somewhat familiar with, but he explained the lessons in greater detail and example than I had been aware of. He also gave tips to more easily remember grammar standards, and his book includes appendices of commonly misspelled and confused words.

Clark advises breaking archaic grammar rules when they don't mean anything more, and he scolds prescriptionist grammarians who refuse to budge from steadfast and anachronistic usage. I'm still not sure how I feel about the Oxford comma (I avoid in journalistic writing), but Clark's section on punctuation was insightful and useful. I also liked his advice to hang out in specialized locations, like gay bars or computer clubs, to learn the slang of different groups and his guidelines on how to use sentence fragments (in the section on meaning).

Clark is the keynote speaker at the American Copy Editors Society national conference in April, which I'm attending, and I'm excited to meet the man whom I feel I've come to know by reading this book. I'd recommend this book for new and old language leaners alike, to both refresh what you might already know about grammar and learn at least a little something new.
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