Book Review: A stylebook that will actually improve your writing style

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyers

I’m no fan of stylebooks in general. Many of them do more harm than good to quality writing. (Like the awful Strunk and White.)

But here’s a good one. It’s packed with smart writing advice from a seasoned copy editor who has only a few chips on his shoulder.

Right at the beginning, Dreyer makes it clear that style rules exist only to make your writing better. Not to uphold the sniffy peeves of English teachers and grammar fanatics. And, right away, he dispatched a handful of “nonrules: — that is, commonly enforced rules that are “unhelpful pointlessly constricting, feckless, and useless.” He gives us permission to break these nonrules:

  • Never Begin a Sentence with “And” or “But.”
  • Never Split an Infinitive.
  • Never End a Sentence with a Preposition.
  • Contractions Aren’t Allowed in Formal Writing.
  • The Passive Voice Is to Be Avoided.
  • Sentence Fragments. They’re Bad.
  • A Person Must Be a “Who.”
  • “None” Is Singular and, Dammit, Only Singular.
  • “Whether” Must Never Be Accompanied by “Or Not.”
  • Never Introduce a List with “Like.”

There’s no telling how much writing has been rendered lifeless because someone believed these nonrules must be followed. If you believe any of them — or if you have a colleague with a red pen who believes — stop it right now!

(I should admit here that I believe in one of the above nonrules. Not telling which. I know it’s just a peeve of mine, but it will never cross my desk. If I encounter it in your writing, I will endeavor to leave it alone, assuming the writing is good otherwise!)

The book is worth the price for the above list alone, but there’s a lot more. Mainly well-reasoned thoughts on why you might choose one word, phrase, or punctation over another. (Including this gem: Only godless savages eschew the series comma.) It’s written in a human, non-sniffy tone that will make you like the author, and it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. How often do you find that in a stylebook?

If you’re a writer, or you deal with other people’s writing, get this book. It will help!

Available at Amazon: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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