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Published by Spain’s Cervantes Institute, this work is good news for the entire Spanish-speaking world. From its generous grammar overview to the specifics of organizing text and composing essays, opinion pieces, and dialog, the authors explain with clarity and depth the basics of writing. In an attempt to cover the language in all its variety, it also includes several essays (e.g., “Is Spanish Sexist?”) on postmodern concerns, practical guidance on writing résumés and corporate email, and even a list of emoticons frequently used by youngsters on SMS. Both students and professionals should benefit from this manual. While it works best as reference, it is also highly readable thanks to the frequent quotations from published novels. Its main fault: despite the introduction’s pan-Hispanic declaration of intentions, this guide is overwhelmingly Iberian-centric. For instance, although grammar examples are strewn with Spain’s popular slang words, such as hortera and guaperas , we never find a Mexican cuate or Venezuelan chévere . Also, in their quest for linguistic purity, at times the authors end up being arbitrary, suggesting the replacement of popular expressions like soñamos despiertos (“We daydream”) and reír las gracias (“To laugh at somebody’s jokes”) with unusual ones like nos ilusiona la realidad (“Reality makes us hopeful”) and alegrarse (“To be glad”). In the end, however, this is a valuable and useful work that, with regards to language itself, should be taken with a grain of salt.
—Carlos Rodriguez Martorell