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

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

by Roy Peter Clark

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316027908
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/08/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 391,132
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Roy Peter Clark is senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, one of the most prestigious schools for journalists in the world. He has taught writing at every level — from schoolchildren to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors — for more than forty years.

A writer who teaches and a teacher who writes, he has authored or edited nineteen books on writing and journalism, including The Art of X-Ray Reading, How to Write Short, Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, and Help! for Writers. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he is considered a garage-band legend.

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

Customer Reviews

The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
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.
kittycrochettwo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 return for an honest review.
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roy Peter Clark's The Glamour of Grammar is one of those books that starts out promising and then turns into an utter chore to finish. I have to admit I didn't get through the whole thing... just couldn't make myself pick it back up. And this after being initially delighted with the subject matter and fun style. It's astonishing how an author's bad habits can turn a reader so decidedly off his books.Here's what I initially liked. Clark does make a nice connection between glamour (magic) and language, spells and spelling. His philosophy of grammar as tools instead of rules is an attractive one, but pretty simplistic for people already interested in grammar and language (i.e., everyone who would read this book). The tone is light and humorous (but more on that in a minute). The chapters are nice and short. And that's about all the positive stuff I can think of.So here's why I dropped this book. The humor starts off fun but quickly becomes wearing. Clark gets overly cute and is clearly oh so impressed with his own punning. There are few things more tiresome than an author cackling over his own inane wordplays.What really got old fast, however, were the political slams. Is it really necessary for you, Clark, to constantly use examples like, "When hell freezes over, when all the rivers run dry, and when swallows forget to come back to you-know-where, that's when I'll vote Republican" (71)? Or are you so smugly supercilious that you don't think anyone of that political persuasion might also be interested in your topic? Clark probably thinks he's being funny, but comments like that are distracting and unnecessary. And I can't avoid the impression that he's really something of a jerk toward anyone who holds convictions different from his own. In the chapters I read he makes several nasty comments about another grammarian, Lynne Truss, and obviously thinks himself quite clever for making a pun on her last name. The sad thing is that Clark probably subscribes to all kinds of modern, high-sounding creeds of tolerance... but he displays this intolerant bigotry toward people of different beliefs and makes them the butt of his jokes. The hypocrisy there just isn't funny.Maybe you'll be able to enjoy this book if you have a high tolerance level for bad puns and mean-spirited political and personal jabs. Maybe there is even something worthwhile about grammar and language in the chapters I did not read. But I just couldn't subject myself to any more of Clark's ego to get to it.
SheilaDeeth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
sweeks1980 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have long had a love-hate relationship with grammar. Although it is necessary for effective writing, I also have nightmares of the grammar exercises from school, and I always dreaded having to teach grammar to my high school students.However, Roy Peter Clark¿s "The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English" illustrates that grammar does not have to be the dry, lifeless subject found in schools. By inviting readers to ¿embrace grammar¿ not as a set of rules but as a box of tools¿ (p.2), Clark manages to make a somewhat imposing subject into something that seems both approachable and relevant."The Glamour of Grammar" consists of 50 super-short chapters divided into five sections: Words, Points, Standards, Meaning, and Purpose. Within these sections, Clark covers every topic grammatical and writing topic imaginable, such as the difference between literal and figurative, and how to properly use an exclamation point. I particularly appreciated the ¿Keepsakes¿ he includes at the end of each chapter. These sections provide pithy sound bites of the chapter¿s main points.One of the main draws of "The Glamour of Grammar" is the writing. He takes what, in other people¿s hands, could be an uninspiring topic and makes it fascinating. Furthermore, Clark does not just give lip service to language; he obviously loves words and grammar, as illustrated by the many writing samples he includes. His selection and analysis of these samples offer a glimpse of how Clark must approach reading. Rather than merely reading for information, I can imagine him savoring the language and feeling a great deal of excitement when he finds a great piece of writing.All in all, this is one of the best books on grammar and writing I have encountered, and it would work equally well as a reference book or as a cover-to-cover read. Although I was skeptical before I started reading it, Clark does an excellent job emphasizing the beauty (and, yes, the ¿magic and mystery¿) found in grammar.
kanata on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the easier to read books on grammar that I've come across. Most guides tend to lose me in technical language whereas this one renewed the joy I used to have with words and helped me brush up on a subject that I've forgotten a lot about since I've left school and most formal writing behind.
ellynv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It would make sense that Roy Peter Clark, author of The Glamour of Grammar would have once played in a band which had its greatest moment in opening for ? and the Mysterians. Clark is a writer and writing educator whose passion for the ¿the magic and mystery of practical English¿ would lure even the grammar-averse reader into this fascinating book of language history and practical advice. (For example, have you ever thought about the relationship of glamour/glamour/grammar, punctual/puncture/punctuation, or at least two of the meanings of the word ¿spell?¿)There is more to the Oxford (i.e. serial) comma debate than the usual ¿my parents, Ayn Rand and God¿ example and Clark has converted me. I am also going to take his advice against becoming a `hypergrammarian.¿ As someone who has been correcting the Rolling Stones for forty-five years on the subject of Satisfaction ¿ yes, I was an insufferable ten year old hypergrammarian back in ¿65 - I know that there is still much to learn and I will take the advice of The Glamour of Grammar to heart. I would recommend to any teachers of grammar who would like something to supplement Warriner¿s Handbook etc. and to all readers who find language fun.
anna_in_pdx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I fully expected to like this book. I was not disappointed. I did like this book. I have lots of discussions about language with those near and dear to me, because language is my "thing". (You'd have to ask those near and dear to me what they think about this state of affairs. I think it is great.) My partner and I often debate descriptivism vs. prescriptivism (I am the grammar nazi and he is the person that says "usage rules!"). So the issues raised in this book were not new to me. What was nice about this book is that it did give helpful advice to new/young writers about language and grammar, stressing clarity of meaning (YES!). I think I'd get along great with the writer, who referenced many works of which I am fond (see what I did there?) such as Susan Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. I also liked the author's method of putting a little bulleted list at the end of each chapter to further reinforce the message he wanted to leave with the reader. It was a little more like a Power Point than I would have liked myself, but it was probably useful for a person who's actually reading the book to get a better understanding of grammar. This person was not me. And that's why, though I liked the book, I think it left me a bit cold. I think the targeted reader was someone who is not very experienced with writing and perhaps has not read a lot, but who wishes to write better. The author made frequent references to pop culture, the Internet, movies and TV that, while entertaining, were not really necessary and sometimes sounded a bit "he's trying to hard" (like your mom using teenage lingo with your best friend). But these kinds of judgments are so subjective! And as I went on I liked the book more and more and these judgments became less and less frequent. So, overall, I recommend this book for writers-to-be, new college students, anyone taking a composition or creative writing class, and anyone out there who is still intimidated by "grammar" (I believe that ship sailed a long time ago, but in case anyone out there still exists who's in this category, do yourself a favor and go read this book). Enjoy.
VivienneR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Glamour of Grammar is no dry text book. This is a fascinating book to sit down and enjoy cover to cover. It is simultaneously entertaining and enlightening: the most appealing way to learn.
NorthernStar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through Early Reviewers. Although my (former English teacher) mother corrects my grammar pretty much every time we are together, I've always read a lot and think my general grasp of grammar is pretty good compared to the average. I really didn't care that much until a few years ago, when, due to cutbacks, I was suddenly faced with having to teach English grammar. A good textbook with a good answer key saved me. Having to teach it to others made me realize how much I really knew, and the areas I was really pretty weak in. I'm a long way from perfect, but I no longer avoid semicolons like the plague. I really like the approach in this book. Roy Peter Clark breaks things down into 50 short chapters organized into five main sections; each chapter closes with a brief summary (keepsakes). He gives lots of examples, and discusses where rules have changed or have exceptions. Some of the issues he brings up are things we've discussed in class - because they confuse almost everyone. He is enthusiastic and tries to show the reader why we should care about grammar, but not get too stuck on the rules. On the downside, I do feel that this book suffers from being very American, with lots of contemporary political references which may date it in a few years.
JNSelko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Practical English indeed. What a marvelous book Roy Clark has written on what many think of as a decidedly unmarvelous subject: Grammar. Succinct, pithy, without the English Garden mazes one so often wanders dazedly through in dry recitations of rules, Mr. Clark's book is not only informative but fun, no small task given the subject's normal dry-as-dust theme. I have many books on style and accepted usage, but I have found none to be as readily translatable into the freeing (although frequently frustrating) act of putting words to paper as The Glamour of Grammar. The book is divided up into five categories of usage: Words; Points (punctuation); Standards (acceptable usage); Meaning (applications); and Purpose (using the spice rack of our native tongue). Each of these larger concepts is in turn further honed by various specific subsets of the point Mr. Clark is making, each replete with lively and often humorous examples of just exactly what it is he is trying to show his audience. For example, under the rubric of "Words", we find hints about your personal lexicography (think Humpty-Dumpty), the importance of distinction in clear writing and the joy of homophones and alliteration when used in moderation. "Points" refers to punctuation, and includes sections on the possessive apostrophe, the colon/dash/parenthesis battlefield and even "reclaiming" the exclamation point! "Standards" includes the difference (disappearing in public discourse) between literal and figurative (No John, the safety did not ¿literally¿ knock the receiver¿s head off), and the constant battle (in my mind, at any rate) between the various uses and tenses of Lay and Lie. ¿Meaning¿, among other things, highlights the flaccidity of the passive voice (politician-speak for when they have been caught with their hand in the till (or on a page)), and the isthmusian duties of the complex sentence. Finally, ¿Purpose¿ makes clear the to-often-misunderstood difference between Connotation and Denotation, the pox of the creeping CAPITAL, and the correctness of the ¿incorrect¿ (nonstandard and dialect) English in your writing. A two-night read, this was an eight sticky-note book which gave me leads to four other books and/or authors- not bad for a grammar text.
pmarshall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One day I sat down to read ¿The Glamour of Grammar¿ and didn¿t even finish the first chapter. Obviously it was not the right time to read this book. Or perhaps it was not the right way for me to read this book. What I have done since is pick it up and read a chapter or two of it, put it down and return later. In this way I have enjoyed and learned from this book. I didn¿t know that many Jews write the word God as G-d. The reason for this is found in the biblical story of Moses and the burning bush. This is in the chapter on ¿Master the elliptical art of leaving things out.¿The chapter ¿Adopt a favorite letter of the alphabet.¿was fun. I liked the idea of selecting your favourite letters to form an initial and selecting a baby¿s name using the initials. Clark pulls examples from newspaper headlines in ¿Place modifiers where they belong,¿ or the musician who legally changed his name to Question Mark. How computers, unlike typewriters, allow you to control how the text will look on the screen and the printed page.The Keepsakes at the end of chapters are useful in summarizing a chapter, reminding you as you flip through the pages what the key elements are from that section. An example from the Keepsake for ¿Make sentence fragments work for you and the reader;¿ show ways to shock the reader, provide a moment of relief or focus the reader on a key point.Regardless of your approach to reading ¿The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English¿ you will learn from it as well as enjoy this different and entertaining way to look at grammar. I certainly recommend it.
Justjenniferreading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
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Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
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.
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kittycrochettwo More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago