Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: "The Glamour of Grammar"

I have long had a love-hate relationship with grammar. Although it is necessary for effective writing, I also have nightmares of the grammar exercises from school, and I always dreaded having to teach grammar to my high school students.

However, Roy Peter Clark’s The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English illustrates that grammar does not have to be the dry, lifeless subject found in schools. By inviting readers to “embrace grammar… not as a set of rules but as a box of tools” (p.2), Clark manages to make a somewhat imposing subject into something that seems both approachable and relevant.

The Glamour of Grammar consists of 50 super-short chapters divided into five sections: Words, Points, Standards, Meaning, and Purpose. Within these sections, Clark covers every topic grammatical and writing topic imaginable, such as the difference between literal and figurative, and how to properly use an exclamation point. I particularly appreciated the “Keepsakes” he includes at the end of each chapter. These sections provide pithy sound bites of the chapter’s main points.

One of the main draws of The Glamour of Grammar is the writing. He takes what, in other people’s hands, could be an uninspiring topic and makes it fascinating. Furthermore, Clark does not just give lip service to language; he obviously loves words and grammar, as illustrated by the many writing samples he includes. His selection and analysis of these samples offer a glimpse of how Clark must approach reading. Rather than merely reading for information, I can imagine him savoring the language and feeling a great deal of excitement when he finds a great piece of writing.

All in all, this is one of the best books on grammar and writing I have encountered, and it would work equally well as a reference book or as a cover-to-cover read. Although I was skeptical before I started reading it (the title seems to be promising a bit much), Clark does an excellent job emphasizing the beauty (and, yes, the “magic and mystery”) found in grammar.

I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.