Title: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
Author: June Casagrande
Published: 2006, Penguin
Category: Grammar Reference
I recently had a debate with my brother about the word "whom." I say, people don't actually use this word in speech, so it doesn't need to appear in anything but the most formal writing. He says he uses the word "whom." I'm going to laugh at him if he does. (Justin, I love you anyway.) Well, this book backs me up in the chapter "For Whom the Snob Trolls: 'Who'/'Whom' and Why You're Right Not to Care." Ha!
Usually I pick up grammar guides thinking that I'll read them through, but then put them down because they're boring. Yes, grammar is usually boring. But this book is so delightfully funny that I actually did read it from cover to cover. The author has a very pragmatic approach to language that I totally agree with: It is an ever-changing thing, and we really don't need to be killing ourselves following a ton of arcane and confusing rules.
This book goes over the most common grammar problems and sorts out exactly which rules you absolutely should be following, which are stylistic choices that you can feel free to ignore if you so wish, and rules that should just be tossed out the window. It's a very pain-free lesson. Her examples are hilarious and she is constantly making fun of copy editors (they are a seriously weird group of people).
Some highlights: In her chapter "Hyphens: Life-Sucking, Mom-and-Apple-Pie-Hating, Mime-Loving, Nerd-Fight-Inciting Daggers of the Damned," she says "Copy editors need hyphens like prison inmates need cigarettes and Karl Rove needs pentagrams and babies' blood." Yea, I hate hyphens sometimes. The chapter "Snobbery Up with Which You Should Not Put" defends ending sentences with prepositions. The last chapter is a glossary of "Satan's Vocabulary," word pairings that give people trouble, including affect/effect, compose/comprise, lay/lie, and rack/wrack.
Amongst all the jokes are some really good pointers. I'll be forever thankful for clearing up that whole lay/lie problem, because that's just confusing.