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Grammatical Sass

Sassiness, thy name is Dreyer.

I love words and language. I love writing about words and language. I even love reading about words and language, which is why I was so excited to get the notice that my copy of Dryer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style was ready to be sucked into the book hoard cleverly hidden on my tablet. I’d preordered it ages ago, and finally! Joy!

As of this moment, I am only about thirty eight percent done but I have to say: wow. I have never laughed so hard at footnotes before, ever. Ev-er.

“OK?” the copy editor had jotted in the margin–occasionally a
correction or revision was itself crossed out, a row of percussive
dots was penciled in underneath the original text, and the word
“STET”–that’s Latin, I learned, for “let it stand,” a.k.a. “keep your
hands to yourself’ –would be marked alongside the revised, then
unrevised text, occasionally accompanied by an exclamation
point, also occasionally accompanied by a choice word or two of
dissent. *

With the related footnote:

*”Can you give an example?” my own editor requested while
we were working over this passage. Well, let’s see. There was
that one writer who, in overriding a copy editor’s attempt to
repair one of his (I must point out for the historical record)
godawful sentences, sniffily noted “It’s called style” in the
margin. And the one who, in response to a perfectly demure
piece of editorial advice, scrawled in what was either red crayon

Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer

Aside from the dry, razor-like wit, the advice is unbeatable.

Developed over his years working his way up the editorial chain at Random House, Dreyer’s knowledge is eminently practical and remarkably situational. There are a handful of hard and fast rules, but even they can sometimes have their hearts cut out on the altars of clarity, style, and prettiness on the page–because there’s an art to copy editing, just as there’s an art to writing said copy in the first place: Oxford Comma? Yes, always. Unless, you know, it doesn’t work for this sentence right here and right now.

You would think that 250+ pages of grammatical hijinks would put you into an Oxford coma, but no. This is a delight, and you actually learn things while chuckling at Dreyer’s scathing wit. Just read it, for fuck’s sake. I have to get back to it.


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