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Posted November 26, 2006
The William, James & Co. is making a fine stance in its selection of books to publish, books that serve the soul and the mind and challenge our perceptions on many levels. The quality of every aspect of their books is superb: in the case of this book, COMMON ERRORS IN ENGLISH USAGE, the mood and class begins with a front cover image (an old photograph of a school marm being applauded by an audience of men WAY before feminist values took hold!) and progresses through fine design and careful editing, fonts, and page layout. Paul Brians opens this completely useful compendium with an Introduction that sets a tone so necessary for books that discredit contemporary mangling of the English language: he is lighthearted, astute, wise, and wisely non-threatening. What follows is an (now) indispensable 'brain check' for all writers and curious readers whose eyes challenge the use of certain spellings and phrases. Creating his own dictionary, Brians lists common errors alphabetically in the first 200 plus pages of the book - a quick and easy reference for finding first, just how guilty we all have become and then second, a resource for avoiding errors of expression and spelling that will aid all writers no matter their direction. Brians then lists by categories commonly confused expressions, homonyms, misheard expressions, pronunciation, grammar/spelling/style - all manner of pitfalls that have become so common in even the best writing of the day. He does this in a way that allows us to laugh through our embarrassment and learn from his erudite summations. This is a sparklingly fine book that belongs not on the coffee table (though it is wildly humorous in many ways, a fine conversation piece for guests), but more appropriately on the desks of everyone who puts pen to page or fingers to keyboard. This is a book that will crowd Roget and Webster for space in every thinking person's library! Grady Harp
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