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Bryson's Dictionary: for Writers and Editors [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 April 2009

What is the difference between cant and jargon, or assume and presume? What is a fandango? How do you spell supersede? Is it hippy or hippie?

These questions really matter to Bill Bryson, as they do to anyone who cares about the English language. Originally published as The Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors has now been completely revised and updated for the twenty-first century by Bill Bryson himself. Here is a very personal selection of spellings and usages, covering such head-scratchers as capitalization, plurals, abbreviations and foreign names and phrases. Bryson also gives us the difference between British and American usages, and miscellaneous pieces of essential information you never knew you needed, like the names of all the Oxford colleges, or the correct spelling of Brobdingnag.

An indispensable companion to all those who write, work with the written word, or who just enjoy getting things right, it gives rulings that are both authoritative and commonsense,all in Bryson's own inimitably goodhumoured way.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (23 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552773530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552773539
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.

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Product Description


"Sensible advice... Bryson is against pomposity and in favour of clarity and brevity... His pet hates are particularly well judged, by which I mean they are mine too. Time and again, I found myself cheering him on... Evelyn Waugh would find much to surprise and please him here... provides plenty of ammunition for anoraky one-upmanship" (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

"Now your favourite transplanted American (and mine) has ventured into the field of Linguistic Guidance for Limeys... Language lovers - of every stripe and creed - should raise three cheers.... clear out your linguistic cobwebs, with the help of Bill Bryson" (Erica Wagner The Times)

"As a newspaper sub-editor myself (Bryson's original trade), I've read this guide to spelling, grammar and usage from front to back and have to say one thing. It's brilliant. It should be on the shelf of anyone aspiring to make a living using the English language... the best book of its type yet written" (Daily Mail)


Language lovers - of every stripe and creed - should raise three cheers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why Bother? 20 May 2008
According to the copyright page, "earlier editions" of this book were published in England as "The Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors" more than 15 years ago. According to Bryson's preface, it's intended as a "quick, concise guide to the problems of English spelling and usage most commonly encountered by writers and editors" and "is a personal collection, built up over thirty years..." That's all well and good, but since its original publication, a little thing called the internet has come along and rendered a good deal of the contents rather superfluous. For example, it's hard to imagine that anyone seeking the correct spelling of "suggestible" or "sulfur" would turn to page 322 of this book to learn the proper sequence of letters. For one thing, it would be vastly inefficient to turn to Bryson's "personal collection" every time a spelling question arose on the off chance his spelling problems matched yours. More to the point, there are any number of reliable online dictionaries one could use instead. Similarly, the book is full of names and one-line bios of famous and semi-famous people (ranging on page 323 from Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to Patrick Swayze). Again, why hope that Bryson has an entry on a particular person as opposed to a quick check online at any number of reliable sources? And so on, from various foreign-language terms to geographic locations, abbreviations, etc. The only area where Bryson "adds value" is those entries which evoke a more lengthy discussion of usage, however he's already written a book on usage (Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words), so one might as well rely on that (or any number of other excellent usage guides). Read more ›
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars To call this a curate's egg... 5 Dec 2008
By Vinman666 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover being generous. I'm an aspiring writer and bought this from a book club, believing the publisher blurb that it is an "Indispensable companion to all those who write...".

On first opening the book at random I was presented with the fact that John Le Mesurier is a British actor who died in 1983. Wow. Apart from the spelling of his name and the fact that he's dead, I know nothing else about him (and I knew he was dead). That sums up this book: as another reviewer has mentioned, there is nothing here that you couldn't Google for. Agreed, the internet is full of inaccuracy, urban legend and unsubstantiated opinion but it's still better than checking this book as anything other than a last resort. Some entries have no description, just the word (presumably so you can discover Google is better, alas after wasting your money). If it were a pocket guide it might occasionally be worth carrying around should you prefer to write in a remote location, but this is hardback and 450 odd pages of typically large typeface.

This book is something of everything but, ultimately, nothing. Unless you think not knowing how to pronounce Billericay is going to get you killed.

It's bill-a-rik'-ee apparently. Phew! Thanks Bill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure 14 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of those books that is really useful if you're a student of correct grammar and punctuation as I am and a pedant when it comes to using the right word in the right context. A great read and an interesting way of honing your english skills.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good present for friend 17 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Book was well received, thanks!It was given to a friend who is a budding author.You can always rely on Bill Bryson.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BRYSONS DICTIONARY 14 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A super book that fills many of the gaps left by others. Essential reading for wordsmiths, crossword enthusiasts and those with enquiring minds. This is a book that you can pick up and peruse many, many times and still question how you missed 'that bit' before.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 20 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Not only a very useful book to consult, but also excellent bed-time reading too. It is an absolute joy to read.
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