The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference

The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference

The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference

The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference


The Definitive Source for Clear and Correct Writing

&break;&break;"The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference" is the comprehensive resource on grammar and usage, a necessity for every writer's desk. It presents balanced instruction and real-world examples that will ensure professional and flawless work on every occasion.

&break;&break;"There are some principles of usage I thought I'd never understand. This book has proven me wrong. Clear, illuminating, and comprehensive–this is a must-have resource for grammarians and laymen, alike."

&break;–Fiona Maazel, managing editor of "The Paris Review"


Books about grammar tend to fall into two categories. In the first category are books that describe the operations of the English language and explain how words go about performing their uncanny business in sentences. The approach of such books, unfortunately, is often far removed from the workaday urgency with which we fit words together into sentences and get our hands dirty in the entanglements of syntax and usage. In the second category are books that present a set of rules enabling writers to avoid conspicuous or subtle errors. Such books are practical, but they often leave readers yearning for a larger, clarifying context or reasons why a particular construction is deemed correct or not.

Our book attempts to integrate the two approaches by providing both a macrogrammar and a microgrammar—first, a systematizing of the often perplexing behaviors of words and, second, a how-to guide that will help you produce sentences free of the kinds of errors that distract readers.

Some readers might think that the formulation of rules is an arbitrary or elitist act. The rules and principles set forth in this book, however, are not decrees issued from on high. Instead, the conventions we present here have been induced from a very close inspection of how professional writers and the editorial departments of distinguished newspapers, magazines, and book publishers handle the intricate and sometimes vexatious matters of grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and usage. Such wordsmiths deserve our emulation. They err so rarely that their errors are unusually instructive.

Rather than invent our own sentences to illustrate what can go wrong on the page, therefore, we have extracted erroneous sentences from lively published sources, mostly newspapers and magazines we enjoy reading. (You are likely to notice that some of the illustrative sentences are weakened by more than one kind of error.) The sentences are included to demonstrate that even the most gifted writers can bend or even break the rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage, especially when a deadline looms and the pressure is intense. The errors sometimes slip past even the most vigilant and conscientious editors, copy editors, and proofreaders.

That our very best writers now and then commit errors should deepen our appreciation of just how demanding the craft of writing is—from drafting, composing, and revising to editing, proofreading, and printing. We are certain that, despite diligent proofreading, we ourselves are likely to have committed our share of blunders in the production of this book. We therefore invite readers to alert us to our lapses. (Diane Stevenson wrote Part I; Gary Lutz wrote Parts II-IV.) You can e-mail Diane at and Gary at gram

Throughout the book, we emphasize the importance of having a good dictionary close by as you write. The desk dictionaries that we recommend (each includes about 160,000 words) are Webster’s New World College Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The unabridged dictionary that we recommend is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (published by Merriam-Webster).

For those of you who become interested in reading further about grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and usage, we recommend ten thorough, revered, authoritative, and altogether . . .

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