There are tons of books out there that can help you improve your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Some do so with humor, which I find attractive when I’m suggesting one to a friend who is not typically interested in such topics. The purpose of these manuals is not to poke fun at those incapable of using commas or apostrophes correctly, rather, it is to promote more accurate and thoughtful communication. The utilization of proper grammar and punctuation allows an author to convey his or her message more precisely.
Here is a list of reference books that I have found helpful (some are even good for a laugh):
1. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss goes about her punctuation lessons hilariously. While some might find her to be the stickler to end all sticklers, her sarcastic hyperbole is apparent in lines such as, “If this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no… quickening of the pulse, you should probably put this book down at once.” Or when she refers to the absence of an apostrophe in a possessive as, “…rous[ing] feelings not only of despair but of violence.” Her humor makes this book a fun, unconventional way to brush up on punctuation.
2. The Best Punctuation Book, Period. – June Casagrande is much more formal and to the point, but this is a good thing. Her book is organized into two parts, “Guidelines” (with chapters devoted to individual punctuation marks), and “Punctuation A to Z” (including a table of terms that are often problematic, organized alphabetically). Both sections provide punctuation advice for different styles of writing (e.g., books, news, science, and academic). If you want to know more about the em dash vs the en dash, there is a chapter for each. This is a great grammar reference manual to have on hand.
3. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen – As former copy editor for the New Yorker, Mary Norris’s memoir and reference guide for grammar and usage is entertaining and will teach you about punctuation and life. She likens her pencil and eraser addiction to that of a food addiction: “I was addicted. They were like Oreos. Soon I was consuming them by the dozen.” With chapters such as, “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar,” “Ballad of a Pencil Junkie,” and “F*ck this Sh*t,” you can’t help but love this writer and her take on punctuation.
4. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need – Susan Thurman has compiled the most important aspects of writing into a handy, accessible guide. This book can be utilized by anyone needing to brush up on the proper use of a hyphen, or where to put a semicolon. Sometimes reviewing basic sentence structure and advice regarding content clarity is exactly the sort of refresher we all need. There are chapters entitled, “Finding the Right Words,” “Writing Better Sentences,” and “Pronoun Problems.” This book is organized so that each and every reader, regardless of his or her skill level, will benefit from its contents.
Have you read any of these? What are your go-to books for all things grammar and punctuation?
By: Amber D., On Demand Editor for editorr