The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English

Overview

Early in the history of English, the words "grammar" and "glamour" meant the same thing: the power to charm. Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, aims to put the glamour back in grammar with this fun, engaging alternative to stuffy instructionals. In this practical guide, readers will learn everything from the different parts of speech to why effective writers prefer concrete nouns and active verbs. THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR gives readers all the tools they need to"live inside the language"—to take advantage of...

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The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English

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Overview

Early in the history of English, the words "grammar" and "glamour" meant the same thing: the power to charm. Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, aims to put the glamour back in grammar with this fun, engaging alternative to stuffy instructionals. In this practical guide, readers will learn everything from the different parts of speech to why effective writers prefer concrete nouns and active verbs. THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR gives readers all the tools they need to"live inside the language"—to take advantage of grammar to perfect their use of English, to instill meaning, and to charm through their writing. With this indispensable book, readers will come to see just how glamorous grammar can be.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Grammar is a subject that typically induces wincing, wheezing, or worse. Clark, a lifelong whiz at the subject, wants readers to fully appreciate the importance of good grammar and the qualities of superior writing. To that end, he has laid out several entertaining, easy-to-follow rules, governing everything from punctuation to alliteration, that promise to dramatically improve one's writing and develop an appreciation for language. Clark draws on examples ranging from DeLillo to Rowling, a breadth of text that readers will appreciate as much as the author's humorous approach. Who knew that a discussion of grammar could induce laughter? This is an eminently readable, extremely enjoyable guide that readers will find highly useful on their path to development, not just as writers, but as readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ammon Shea
"Very much a manual for the 21st century...a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone who cares about language-and is willing to argue about it."
Barbara Fisher
"A fine common-sense guide to the proper use of language."
Constance Hale
"What I learned from this book:

1) That grammar has meant mastery of all arts and letters (to the Greeks) and power, magic, and enchantment (to the Scots). Wow.

2) That for the artful writer, no decision is too small, including whether to use a or the. Awesome.

3) That there are right-branching, left-branching, and middle-branching sentences. How cool!

4) That Roy Peter Clark, a modern-day Pied Piper of grammar, makes good writing both approachable and doable. Phew!"

Ben Yagoda
"If there is indeed a glamour to grammar, I should have known Roy Peter Clark would be the one to spot it. Clark is a trusty guide for anyone wanting to avoid the (many) pitfalls and scale the (hard-won) peaks of perpetrating prose."
Chuck Leddy
"An engaging and witty exploration of the shifting rules of English grammar...Clark shows breathtaking knowledge of how language is used in the real world and a passionate commitment to helping writers make good choices."
Margaret Heilbrun
"[Roy Peter] Clark takes readers through a well-paced presentation...he conveys the magic that is to be found in English, in its ever active evolution."
Sister Helen Prejean
"Who, other than a word-lover like Roy Peter Clark, would dare link "glamour" with (ugh) "grammar"? Here it is--a book of enchantment about words and how words work and what they mean and how to spell them, where even lowly semicolons get appreciated as "swinging gates" in a sentence. Who'd a thunk a book on grammar could be fun? And humorous. Check out "cleave" and "cleaveage.""
Dr. Mardy Grothe
"If 'Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne,' as Quentin Crisp once said, then Ralph Keyes has given word and language lovers a deeply fragrant-and thoroughly enjoyable-book."
Anne Hull
"If grammar is medicine, then Roy Clark gives us the spoonful of sugar to help it go down. A wonderful tour through the labyrinth of language."
Bob Dotson
"An indispensible book in this Twitter world where so few words must push your story forward. Roy Peter Clark shows you a fun way to say exactly what you mean."
Eugene C. Patterson
"Roy Peter Clark takes the language so seriously he dares to play with it. What other English professor would seriously write 'A good pun is its own reword.' The Glamour of Grammar is required fun, seriously."
Thomas French
"Roy Peter Clark, the Jedi master of writing coaches, has delivered another indispensable classic for every author, young and old. The Glamour of Grammar crackles with wit and wisdom and with page after page of rock-solid strategies to guide writers toward prose that sings with vivid clarity. Somehow, Clark makes grammar seem both playful and understandable, even for those who have trouble telling the difference between a dangling participle and a wandering antecedent."
From the Publisher
"Very much a manual for the 21st century...a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone who cares about language-and is willing to argue about it."—Ammon Shea, the New York Times Book Review

"A fine common-sense guide to the proper use of language."—Barbara Fisher, the Boston Globe

"An engaging and witty exploration of the shifting rules of English grammar...Clark shows breathtaking knowledge of how language is used in the real world and a passionate commitment to helping writers make good choices."—Chuck Leddy, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[Roy Peter] Clark takes readers through a well-paced presentation...he conveys the magic that is to be found in English, in its ever active evolution."—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal

"Clark...has laid out several entertaining, easy-to-follow rules, governing everything from punctuation to alliteration, that promise to dramatically improve one's writing and develop an appreciation for language. Who knew that a discussion of grammar could induce laughter? This is an eminently readable, extremely enjoyable guide that readers will find highly useful on their path to development, not just as writers, but as readers."—Publishers Weekly

"What I learned from this book:

1) That grammar has meant mastery of all arts and letters (to the Greeks) and power, magic, and enchantment (to the Scots). Wow.

2) That for the artful writer, no decision is too small, including whether to use a or the. Awesome.

3) That there are right-branching, left-branching, and middle-branching sentences. How cool!

4) That Roy Peter Clark, a modern-day Pied Piper of grammar, makes good writing both approachable and doable. Phew!"—Constance Hale, author of Sin and Syntax

"Who, other than a word-lover like Roy Peter Clark, would dare link "glamour" with (ugh) "grammar"? Here it is—a book of enchantment about words and how words work and what they mean and how to spell them, where even lowly semicolons get appreciated as "swinging gates" in a sentence. Who'd a thunk a book on grammar could be fun? And humorous. Check out "cleave" and "cleaveage." "—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"If grammar is medicine, then Roy Clark gives us the spoonful of sugar to help it go down. A wonderful tour through the labyrinth of language."—Anne Hull, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, The Washington Post

"If 'Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne,' as Quentin Crisp once said, then Ralph Keyes has given word and language lovers a deeply fragrant-and thoroughly enjoyable-book."—Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of Oxymoronica and other quotation anthologies

"If there is indeed a glamour to grammar, I should have known Roy Peter Clark would be the one to spot it. Clark is a trusty guide for anyone wanting to avoid the (many) pitfalls and scale the (hard-won) peaks of perpetrating prose."—Ben Yagoda, author of Memoir: A History and The Sound on the Page: Style and Voice in Writing"Roy Peter Clark takes the language so seriously he dares to play with it. What other English professor would seriously write 'A good pun is its own reword.' The Glamour of Grammar is required fun, seriously."—Eugene C. Patterson, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and retired chairman and CEO, St. Petersburg Times

"Roy Peter Clark, the Jedi master of writing coaches, has delivered another indispensable classic for every author, young and old. The Glamour of Grammar crackles with wit and wisdom and with page after page of rock-solid strategies to guide writers toward prose that sings with vivid clarity. Somehow, Clark makes grammar seem both playful and understandable, even for those who have trouble telling the difference between a dangling participle and a wandering antecedent."—Thomas French, author of Zoo Story

"An indispensible book in this Twitter world where so few words must push your story forward. Roy Peter Clark shows you a fun way to say exactly what you mean."—Bob Dotson, NBC News National Correspondent for the Today Show's "American Story with Bob Dotson"

Library Journal
Journalist and teacher Clark (vice president & senior scholar, Poynter Inst.; Writing Tools) takes readers through a well-paced presentation, defining English grammar as a set of tools, rather than rules. Like Dunton-Downer (see review below), he conveys the magic that is to be found in English, in its ever-active evolution. Yet he stresses that users of English must understand the systems behind the magic in order best to convey magic themselves. As a teacher—and he writes here in a teacher's voice—he is excellent at explaining elusive topics such as the subjunctive and the serial comma, often comparing English to other languages whose different approaches illuminate our own. Each short section of the five main chapters ends with "Keepsake" reminders. The nuts-and-bolts information here is best for adults young and old in search of grammatical aid; yet Clark's erudition may be better appreciated by those who know their grammar. In either case, a rewarding purchase.
Ammon Shea
While The Glamour of Grammar will not replace Fowler or Strunk and White, nor render obsolete more contemporary and comprehensive guides, like Bryan A. Garner's Modern American Usage, it is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone who cares about language—and is willing to argue about it.
—The New York Times
Yvonne Zipp
…in his engaging, sometimes downright funny study of English…Clark makes for the most genial grammarian since the singing conductor on "Schoolhouse Rock."
—The Washington Post
Colette Bancroft
"A streamlined, accessible, witty book...[Clark] is a coach rather than a scold, encouraging readers to 'live inside the language.'"
John E. McIntyre
"[Clark] is not of the hectoring, bullying school of language advice. He is an encourager...A good book for an aspiring writer, human and sensible about the great craft, relishing its possibilities and its power."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316027915
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 8/16/2010
  • Pages: 294
  • Sales rank: 142,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Roy Peter Clark is vice president and senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, one of the most prestigious schools for journalists in the world. He has taught writing at every level—to schoolchildren and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors—for more than thirty years, and has spoken about the writer's craft on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NPR, and The Today Show; at conferences from Singapore to Brazil; and at news organizations from the New York Times to The Sowetan in South Africa. A writer who teaches and a teacher who writes, he has authored or edited fifteen books about writing and journalism, including his most recent, Writing Tools. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Embrace grammar as powerful and purposeful 1

Part 1 Words 7

1 Read dictionaries for fun and learning 9

2 Avoid speed bumps caused by misspellings 14

3 Adopt a favorite letter of the alphabet 18

4 Honor the smallest distinctions even between a and the 21

5 Consult a thesaurus to remind yourself of words you already know 27

6 Take a class on how to cross-dress the parts of speech 31

7 Enjoy, rather than fear, words that sound alike 35

8 Learn seven ways to invent words 40

9 Become your own lexicographer 45

10 Take advantage of the short-word economy of English 49

11 Learn when and how to enrich your prose with foreign words 55

Part 2 Points 61

12 Use the period to determine emphasis and space 63

13 Advocate use of the serial comma 68

14 Use the semicolon as a "swinging gate" 72

15 Embrace the three amigos: colon, dash, and parentheses 77

16 Let your ear help govern the possessive apostrophe 82

17 Take advantage of the versatility of quotation marks 85

18 Use the question mark to generate reader curiosity and narrative energy 89

19 Reclaim the exclamation point 94

20 Master the elliptical art of leaving things out 98

21 Reach into the "upper case" to unleash the power of names 103

22 Vary your use of punctuation to create special effects 108

Part 3 Stamdards 111

23 Learn to lie or lay, as well as the principles behind the distinction 113

24 Avoid the "trap" of subject-verb disagreement 117

25 Render gender equality with a smooth style 121

26 Place modifiers where they belong 128

27 Help the reader learn what is "essential" and "nonessential." 131

28 Avoid case mistakes and "hypergrammar." 135

29 Be certain about the uncertain subjunctive and other "moody" subjects 138

30 Identify all sources of ambiguity and confusion 143

31 Show what is literal and what is figurative 148

Part 4 Meaning 153

32 Join subjects and verbs, or separate them for effect 155

33 Use active and passive verbs in combination and with a purpose 162

34 Befriend the lively verb to be 168

35 Switch tenses, but only for strategic reasons 173

36 Politely ignore the language crotchets of others 179

37 Learn the five forms of well-crafted sentences 183

38 Make sentence fragments work for you and the reader 187

39 Use the complex sentence to connect unequal ideas 193

40 Learn how expert writers break the rules in run-on sentences 197

Part 5 Purpose 203

41 Master the uses of nonstandard English 205

42 Add a pinch of dialect for flavor 209

43 Tame taboo language to suit your purposes 215

44 Unleash your associative imagination 220

45 Play with sounds, natural and literary 226

46 Master the distinction between denotation and connotation 231

47 Measure the distance between concrete and abstract language 238

48 Harness the power of particularity 244

49 Have fun with initials and acronyms, but avoid "capital" offenses 251

50 Master the grammar of new forms of writing 256

Afterword: Live a life of language 263

Appendix A Words I have misspelled 265

Appendix B Words I have confused 271

Appendix C The Glamour of Grammar quick list 277

Acknowledgments 282

Index 285

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  • Posted August 27, 2010

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    A must-read for any aspiring writer

    So, what do you think about when you hear the word "grammar"? As a kid, I would think "Uh oh; I guess I wrote something wrong again." As a young adult I'd say, "Hey, that's just the way I speak." As an Englishwoman moving to America I'd groan that it's not just the spellings that are different here but the grammar rules as well. And after reading this book I'd say, "Wow!"
    So, what about my punctuation above? Why did I put that question mark outside the quotes when the exclamation point went inside at the end of the paragraph? I'd often wondered how to punctuate quotes, and since I want to be a writer, I'd often thought I really ought to learn. At last I have.
    Clark's book starts by pointing out that "glamour" and "grammar" come from the same root. I guess is makes sense. After all, we "spell" words correctly or otherwise, and wizards cast "spells." Grammar's just the next step.
    I used to teach chess, and I'd explain to the kids that there are two types of rules. Some have to be obeyed (pawns move forwards for example), or else you're not playing chess. Others are there to be understood and used judiciously (such as "Don't get your queen out too soon") to set or avoid falling into traps. Once you know the rules, you know what it means when they're broken.
    Spelling's probably the first sort of rule, and Clark includes a chapter on how meanings can change where the wrong spelling or wrong word is used. Suddenly you're not saying what you thought; your reader's dragged out of the writing; you're not playing the same game. But other grammar rules can be judiciously broken. We just have to know what we're doing and why-be prepared for what the reader will see, and be ready to make sure it's what we intend.
    Clark's chapters are written with delightful style, great voice, amazing examples, and just pure fun. (Yes, grammar can be fun!) There's advice for aspiring writers that any of us could use-the value of the well-chosen long or short word, the nuances of sound or foreign phrase, the alliteration of short and long sentences. And then there are chapter endings with quick and easily read "Keepsakes." There he might emphasize a point, help the reader practice a technique, or simply list the rules. (That's how I learned how to punctuate my first paragraph.)
    Clark doesn't want to regiment our writing. He acknowledges how different countries (UK and US for example), industries (newspaper vs book), and even publishers have their own chosen styles. Obey the rules of your intended audience he says. But then he frees us to shift those chess pieces round and win the game.
    Is grammar glamorous? It certainly is now. I love this book, and I'd recommend that everyone who loves reading or writing really should read it. I can hardly believe how lucky I was to get a copy to review-you'll hardly believe how lucky you are if you get your own copy too. And, just for reference, since Roy Peter Clark is vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, I have no qualms about trusting him to give me, and you, the right facts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A book that teaches you something without feeling like a textbook.

    What I liked the most about this book is that it wasn't written like a grammar book. It was written more like a story that had grammar tips added into it. It was kind of like a copy of Writer's Inc. with a story behind it. And while I'd never get rid of my copy of Writer's Inc. I think this will make a nice addition to my grammar tools arsenal.

    I have to admit that I'm not the best grammatical writer. I don't remember most of the rules I learned in school (frankly I didn't care to really remember them). So while I was reading this some of it seemed new to me. The greatest thing about this book is that it taught me something without making me realize I was being taught. Since I'm finishing up my degree, reading for learning isn't something I want to do with my spare time. After reading this I have to admit that I didn't get that feeling even once throughout the book. I think that was a great feat within itself, writing a book that is meant to teach something not feel like it was teaching anything at all.

    I still don't remember all the rules that were in this one, but I think I have a better understanding of why some rules of grammar exist and why some are breakable. I'm sure this one will be quite worn out before I finally finish my degree. It's already helped me write a few papers.

    A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. This is not a paid review and is a truthful and honest review.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Theh Glamour of Grammar

    Roy Peter Clark has taken the dull subject of Grammar and turned it into an interesting topic that I found quite enjoyable to read. I really had no idea that the word grammar and glamour actually meant the same thing, but I do now, thanks to the author. He tells us to embrace grammar as a box of tools not a set of rules, and encourages us to read the dictionary for fun. I really like how he ends each chapter with a little segment called Keepsakes, reviewing the most important points of the chapter in a way that would be great for quick reference. The authors wit and storytelling peppered throughout the chapters make this a fun book to read, who knew reading about grammar could actually be fun. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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