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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The working writer's practical, contemporary alternative to Strunk and White, Sin and Syntax is a delightfully informed, frank deconstruction of the English language. Hale's readable volume brims with well-articulated observations and pinpoint examples.
Each chapter addresses a different aspect of writing, from the pointed (a chapter on conjunctions) to the poetically sweeping (a chapter devoted to "melody," or as Hale puts it, the "acoustic effect of words combined to be pleasing and harmonious"). And within each chapter, she spells out four key areas:
- "bones" — the grammar sermonette
- "flesh" — the lesson on writing
- "cardinal sins" — true transgressions
- "carnal pleasures" — breakthrough prose that subverts the norm.
- The author of the genre-breaking Wired Style, Hale maintains a steady authority throughout, clearly setting forth the rules of grammar engagement and then explaining how and when to bend them. Or, to use Hale's skeletal metaphor, when to break them.
The examples are acute. In this instance, a serial comma (i.e., the comma preceding "and" in a list) has gone missing, lending to the author's heartfelt dedication a surprising revelation: "This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God." Were that pairing truly the author's biologicals, the tenets of Objectivism might stand a radical revision. And the Bible might be due for another a new book or two, if not another Testament. All for the want of a comma.