Beyond William Strunk and E.B. White, there are very few celebrities in the world of grammar and usage. If there is one language superstar alive today, though, it is Bryan Garner. He started a career as a lawyer, and later brought his expertise in legal language to the rest of the world with Modern American Usage. This book is perhaps most famous for being the subject of a very, very long review titled “Authority and American Usage.” It’s a fascinating essay on what Standard English is and how Garner expresses his authority over the language. For a slightly more current work by Garner, you can turn to The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, which was recently reviewed by CALA instructor Thomas Claire.
Claire’s review of Chicago Guide is in almost all aspects glowing, noting how Garner explains concepts so clearly. The review praises every part of the book, which has sections on parts of speech, syntax, word formation, word usage, and punctuation — the latter always being the trickiest topic that grammarians attempt to tackle.While there are many books out there that attempt to cover all of the fundamentals of the English language, almost all of them come up short in one way or another. Claire writes that Garner’s book is the first one he’s seen that gets (almost) everything right. There are just a few quibbles in the review, such as Garner’s omission of a discussion about the use of en dashes with certain compound adjectives and nouns.
Claire has a vested interest in finding a good guide to the English language. As he writes at the beginning of the review, he teaches copyediting courses at CALA, which means it is very useful to find one book that can be used throughout a class for guidance. It is certainly a lot better than his old method, which he said was compiling a bunch of PDFs drawn from various sources.
If you’re interested in learning more about grammar and usage, you may be interested in the CALA Diploma in Copyediting, Proofreading, and Fact-Checking, which Thomas Claire is a part of. The program will teach you about the basics of editing, the magazine and book publishing industry, and Adobe InCopy and InDesign, all of which are valuable skills for the copyeditor working today. It can be hard to stand out in a city filled with publishers and editors, so this diploma can be a great step in furthering your career. And if you take the courses now, there should be fewer PDFs than usual.