"A rollicking adventure into the origins of the apostrophe, the proliferation of profanity in American culture, and everything in between."
"Destined to become an instant classic…It’s hard to imagine the reader who would not enjoy spending time with Norris."
Christian Science Monitor
"Mary Norris brings a tough-minded, clear-eyed, fine-tuned wisdom to all the perplexities and traps and terrors of the English sentence."
"Ms. Norris, who has a dirty laugh that evokes late nights and Scotch, is…like the worldly aunt who pulls you aside at Thanksgiving and whispers that it is all right to occasionally flout the rules."
New York Times - Sarah Lyall
"Mary Norris has an enthusiasm for the proper use of language that’s contagious. Her memoir is so engaging, in fact, that it’s easy to forget you’re learning things."
"[A] winningly tender, funny reckoning with labor and language."
Copy editors are a peculiar species…But those at
The New Yorker are something else entirely…A regular reader might be forgiven for wondering, "Are these people nuts?" In Mary Norris's Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, we have our answer: They most certainly are. And their obsessions, typographical and otherwise, make hilarious reading…Despite the extreme grammar, this book charmed my socks off…Norris is a master storyteller and serves up plenty of inside stuff.
The New York Times Book Review - Patricia T. O'Conner
Norris has spent more than 35 years in the New Yorker’s legendary copy department, earning the nickname Comma Queen along the way. So it makes sense that her first book is a delightful discourse on the most common grammar, punctuation, and usage challenges faced by writers of all stripes. Not surprisingly, Norris writes well—with wit, sass, and smarts—and the book is part memoir, part manual. She recounts the history of Webster’s Dictionary; explains when to use who vs. whom and that vs. which; distinguishes between the dash, colon, and the semicolon; delves into the comma and the hyphen; and weighs in on the use of profanity in writing. Norris also finds ways to reference the Lord’s Prayer, the Simpsons, Moby-Dick, and, in a touching anecdote, her own sister. The New Yorker has an unconventional house style—for instance, the magazine uses diaeresis marks in words like coöperate, where the prefix (co-) ends in the same vowel used at the beginning of the stem (operate), to indicate that the vowels are pronounced differently—and, though Norris doesn’t always agree with its strict style rules, readers may not agree with her ideas on language. But it’s a sure bet that after reading this book, they’ll think more about how and what they write. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Apr.)
Between You & Me is smart and funny and soulful and effortlessly illuminating."
"Mary Norris is a grammar geek with a streak of mischief, and her book is obscenely fun."
"Laugh-out-loud funny and wise and compelling from beginning to end."
Houston Chronicle - Steve Weinberg
"Down-to-earth memoir interwoven with idiosyncratic, often funny ruminations on the nuts and bolts of language."
Boston Globe - Linda Lowenthal
"A delightful mix of autobiography,
New Yorker lore, and good language sense."
"[P]ure porn for word nerds."
Washington Post - Allan Fallow
"Very funny, lucid, and lively."
The New Republic - Julia Holmes
"Funny and endearing."
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Joanna Connors
"Hilarious… [T]his book charmed my socks off."
New York Times Book Review - Patricia O’Conner
"Mary Norris is the verbal diagnostician I would turn to for a first, second, or third opinion on just about anything."
Part memoir and part writing guide, Norris's thoughtful and humorous narrative provides an irreverent account of her days as a New Yorker comma queen as well as an insightful look into the history of the English language. With examples ranging from Webster's to Moby-Dick to the proper way to sharpen a pencil, Norris considers the technical aspects of spelling, punctuation, and usage in a manner that is both engaging and entertaining. Her rules are easy to follow, and her writing fast paced and smart, making this a great read for anyone interested in a refresher course on the elements of style. This is not your grade school primer; expect wisecracks and pointed commentary on the many ways in which we embarrass ourselves while trying to sound grammatically superior. VERDICT Norris's handy guide is for writers of all levels. A great addition to public and academic library collections that support writing groups or programs.—Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib.
A New Yorker editor since 1978, Norris provides an educational, entertaining narrative about grammar, spelling and punctuation.The author devotes chapters to commas (who knew a printer more or less invented comma usage in 1490?); apostrophes; hyphens; the difference between "that" and "which"; the proper usage of "who" and "whom" (would Ernest Hemingway have published For Who the Bell Tolls?); dealing with profanity in a national magazine (a chapter in which Norris demonstrates that not all copy editors are prudish); which dictionary (if any) to rely on; and, as a bonus, an ode to pencils with and without erasers. Raised in the Cleveland area, Norris had a vague notion growing up of being a writer. But after attending college, she did not know how to proceed toward that goal, so she worked jobs that included delivering milk to homes, packaging cheese in a factory for sale to supermarkets and washing dishes in a restaurant. The possibility of an editing job at the New Yorker arose only because Norris' brother knew an important person there. Once at the New Yorker, the author engaged in spirited debates with more senior copy editors about all manner of decisions about grammar, punctuation and spelling. Though she observed the rules, she also began to realize that sometimes she had to compromise due to the fact that accomplished writers for the magazine followed their own logic. Norris delivers a host of unforgettable anecdotes about such famed New Yorker writers as Philip Roth, Pauline Kael, John McPhee and George Saunders. In countless laugh-out-loud passages, Norris displays her admirable flexibility in bending rules when necessary. She even makes her serious quest to uncover the reason for the hyphen in the title of the classic novel Moby-Dick downright hilarious. A funny book for any serious reader.