In the age of the internet and smartphones, we are all writers. Grammar books can help and there are also fascinating debates about what comprises 'correct' English and how it should be judged. If you're new to the topic and want practical tips on how to improve, we recommend our interview on the best books on grammar and punctuation by California-based writer and self-confessed 'grammar geek' Mark Nichol. Among his choices is Garner’s Modern English Usage by Bryan A. Garner, our most recommended book on the topic (it's also recommended by Lane Greene, who writes the Economist's Johnson language column).
If proper English is not your goal, we also have book recommendations on slang, defined as “counter-language” by lexicographer Jonathon Green, and swearing by journalist Melissa Mohr. Both recommend The F Word by Jesse Sheidlower. “Everybody should look at this and see how lexicography should be done...it’s an amazing piece of scholarship,” says Green.
On the subject of lexicography, we also have an interview about the Oxford English Dictionary, which started more than a century ago and tries to track the origin of all words in the English language.
(NB If you've already mastered the basics and just want to write more beautifully, we also have book lists/interviews on writing)
Most grammar books say ‘do this, and that’s that.’ But who says? How do they know? Real rules are grounded in the facts of actual standard usage. Here are five grammar books that show their work, telling you not only what to do but why, and how they know. Accept nothing less.
Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary
by K. M. Elisabeth Murray
The Collected Papers of Henry Bradley
by Robert Bridges
The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
The Study of Language in England, 1780-1860
by Hans Aarsleff
The Scholar's Daughter
by Beatrice Harraden
It's a dictionary that seeks to document any word that exists—or ever existed—in the English language and track its evolution over time. Lexicographer Peter Gilliver chooses books to help understand the enormous undertaking that is the Oxford English Dictionary.
Garner's Modern English Usage (5th edition)
by Bryan A. Garner
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style
by Arthur Plotnik
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
by Jane Straus
The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
by Amy Einsohn
In the age of the internet, we are all writers. Correct grammar and punctuation are key to making a good impression. Grammar geek Mark Nichol, a writer at Daily Writing Tips, picks five of the best grammar and punctuation books, and tells us why bad grammar leads to anarchy.
It’s dirty, grubby and doubting. And us at our most real. The lexicographer takes us inside the world of “rough, truthful language” from rhyming slang and cant to the streets of Baltimore and an etymology of the f-word