Top positive review
Easy to use, never fussy, balances what's right with what's effective
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2005
If you're ever afraid that you've mistaken "it's" and "its," or if the sight of everyone reading "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" makes you terrified to write a note, you'll want a copy of this book on your desk. Although a good usage manual depends on the reader having some sense of style (enough to look up uncertain techniques or phrases), too many treat you either like a child or an English teacher, scolding you or explaining their advice in impenetrable jargon. (Many such books don't seem to have taken their own advice about simplicity and clarity.) "The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage" is the exception, a book about language that's well-written and inviting, one that doesn't make you feel like you're back in your grandmother's parlor having every sentence corrected. As one of the other reviewers notes, the range of sources and examples is phenomenal--one way you can double-check your phrasing is to see if you'd want to sound like the writers in Garner's citations. But I'm even more impressed with the simple organization and headings. I sometimes have trouble finding advice in a writer's reference because I can't recall the technical term for what I'm trying to do, but entries in Garner's book are easy to find and richly cross-referenced. Most important, Garner's ear for English is impeccable, and you'll want it listening (as it were) over your shoulder. He acknowledges long-held rules but--where applicable--demonstrates their obsolescence; he also recognizes new usages and gives fair warning of the connotations you risk if you use them before they've become standard.