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As the author of the Word Court columns that appear in The Atlantic Monthly and in newspapers nationwide, Barbara Wallraff is one of America's most widely read writers on language. She is beloved for her wit and renowned for the depth of her knowledge. Now, in Your Own Words, Wallraff answers common and uncommon questions about English-and simultaneously explains how she does it. She reveals how you, too, can be a language expert.
On one level, Your Own Words is about dictionaries, stylebooks, usage manuals, visual dictionaries, thesauri, writing guides, and the Internet: the strengths and weaknesses of these and other language-reference sources, where the sources disagree, and the ways in which even educated people misunderstand them. On a deeper level, however, Your Own Words is about how to make good form your own. While it evaluates the often contradictory advice that reference sources give, it encourages you to reach your own conclusions and develop a style that expresses you at your best.
Illuminated throughout with anecdotes and selections from the Word Court columns, Your Own Words accomplishes what very few books on usage even attempt: it shows everyone with an interest in words-amateur, professional, student, or graduate--how to think about what goes into good style.
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What People are Saying About This
Anyone who cares passionately about writing should read this book. Words matter, and there's no expert on their proper usage more enlightening or more charming than Barbara Wallraff.
(Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness)
At last, the secret handshake revealed! Clever, tart and even a bit sly, Barbara Wallraff is the ideal guide for those who wish to say exactly what they mean.
(Christina Schwarz, author of Drowning Ruth)
I write for a living, but my spelling, my grammar, and my sense of whether there should be a comma before the conjunction at the end of this series are sketchy. Thus Barbara Wallraff is invaluable. She also knows why invaluable means 'priceless' when if I were writing dictionaries, both words would mean 'free.' Plus she understands the subjunctive mood.
(P.J. O'Rourke, author of Give War a Chance and Eat the Rich)
Dr. Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO, Google Inc.
Clearly, the World Wide Web has spawned a linguistic tour de force. The powerful insights and pragmatic approach of Your Own Words make it the perfect guide to this new networked world.
Barbara Wallraff has given us a bestiary of English usage. Your Own Words suggests Edward Gorey in type, revealing the ghastly tinies and grisly goings-on that our language fears are made of. Wallraff reminds us that language itself is exceedingly, delightfully peculiar, and getting more so.
(Glenn Mott, Managing Editor, King Features Syndicate)
If you like thoroughgoing good sense and a light touch backed up with solid scholarship, you'll relish Barbara Wallraff's approach to language. She's a virtuoso. And in these pages she'll teach you how to achieve your own brand of virtuosity.
(Bryan A. Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage)
Barbara Wallraff has long been a great source of answers. In Your Own Words, she provides a compelling look at the answers behind the answers.
(Bill Walsh, author of The Elephants of Style and Lapsing Into a Comma)
Margaret Mahan, former managing editor, University of Chicago Press
With courtesy, patience, and humor, Wallraff provides sensible answers to bothersome questions, never disrespecting (see page 16-thanks for that one!) her questioners.
Your Own Words is Barbara Wallraff's Universal Guide to (Almost) Everything Verbal. It tells you how to look things up, which authorities to put your trust in, where to find what you need to know, and how to put into words what you have to say with a minimum of confusion. Her book is useful, entertaining, and full of surprises.
(Justin Kaplan, editor of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain)
Barbara Wallraff is my language and grammar guru; she ought to be yours, too.
(Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent and Pitching My Tent)