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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English - Patricia T. O'Conner I'll admit it: I feel grammar and punctuation-challenged, so I didn't groan when I saw this was assigned for my composition class. However, after making my way through most of the book, I have to say I'm disappointed. "National Bestseller" claims my edition. Really?! Really!? This must be one of the those books that people who don't read very much buy and throw on the shelf to show how well-read they are (or wish they were). While it covers grammar, punctuation and word choice, the tone is breezy, the format outline-friendly, and there are enough sidebars and lists to make a "Dummies" book blush, so it feels more like a 'safe' introduction than a truly helpful text. If you look for rules, they're hidden in chatty examples of just how tricky rules can be. If you look for examples of how to apply the rules, you only get three or four before it's on to the next one. Thus, I'm not sure it is truly helpful for the reader who wants to improve their grammar in a long-lasting way. Too much of the writing is cluttered with silly humor that distracts from the point. For instance, one aside in the section on verb tense states, "that odd crackling noise you hear is the sound of a sentence short-circuiting!" Well, either that or my temper.I found the format annoying and unhelpful towards actual comprehension. There's a tendency towards long lists in each section. One section on spelling has a long list of hard-to-spell words, so that the reader doesn't get caught pants down by spell-check. Great, I guess. But if I actually want help, I won't get it because I memorized a list of tough words--it'll be from using a dictionary. And yawn for readability, no matter how chatty your definition of "recede" is ("Three e's, and none of them together. Marc expects hemlines to recede next year (For hints about spelling "seedy" -sounding words, see above.)As O'Conner uses just a couple of examples (almost never more than three) to illustrate her point/rule, the pace is keep moving, but at the expense of greater comprehension. I wouldn't have minded a few exercises or "test your comprehension" questions at the end of each chapter. The second half on word choices is even more mixed in terms of usefulness. One chapter on "Verbal Abuse" will help dictionary-adverse users better understand a number of common words and phrases that are used incorrectly, such as "decimate," "hopefully," "irony," "literally," "lay/lie," "assume/presume," etc. It's a section for those who feel unsure of the meaning of the words they use. There is a chapter on common cliches that should be avoided, called, "Death Sentence: Do Cliches Deserve to Die?" I admire the intention, but sometimes corporate-speak is that way for a reason, and changing it up too much risks the readers/listeners thinking you don't speak their language or aren't responding to their ideas. Likewise, the chapter with ten tips on "How to Say What You Mean," would work best for a beginning writer. In fact, I think many of the tips would be contraindicated for a fiction writer.Surprisingly, most of the chapter on punctuation was familiar to me. Thanks, ninth grade English!Overall, a useful book if you feel very unsure about your writing skills, need to write semi-articulately in your profession and don't want to bother with a lot of hard-core rules and practice. I doubt that it will be helpful to a lot of advanced writers who want to improve their grammar.