One of my favourite t-shirt designs of recent years is this one that declares “Bad grammar makes me [sic]”. As a bit of a stickler, pedant, and punctuation fuss-pot this sort of thing really does appeal to me.
And I’m by no means alone. You could almost hear the exasperated sigh of relief when, several years ago stickler heroine Lynne Truss released her now famous diatribe on the failings of modern English use and usage, Eats, shoots and leaves : the zero tolerance approach to punctuation. Fussy spellers and apostrophe monitors everywhere shook their fists at the sky and shouted “Finally, someone acknowledges our struggle,”…or possibly that was just at my house.
Anyway the book was wildly successful and ever since there has been a trickle of titles published designed to appeal to the same market. Recently I dipped into the slow flowing stream of grammarian reading matter with Grammar Girl’s quick and dirty tips for better writing.
The thing I like about “quick and dirty” is its easy, informal style. You’re not told off for not knowing the difference between “effect” and “affect”, quite the opposite, you’re reminded that lots of people get this wrong and with good reason. It is confusing. While I enjoyed Truss’s book (when I wasn’t reading it I clasped it closely to my chest and stroked it fondly), it was a bit “finger waggling” in tone. “Quick and dirty” gives you the basics of what you need to know without the judgement and guilt, and its style is light, funny, and easy to read.
I found the cheesy pictures of aardvarks that seem to accompany every tip a little twee but memorable which is, I suppose, the point. The book is based on Mignon Fogarty’s successful series of podcasts so if you’re looking for something educational to load up on your i-pod (do people do that?) then a wealth of grammatical knowledge is available online for your aural enjoyment.
If it’s all a bit too complicated for you then you might like to try the kids’ version of Truss’s seminal work Eats, shoots and leaves : why commas really do make a difference or its follow-up The girl’s like spaghetti : why you can’t manage without apostrophes!.