This book is my first experience with one of the huge array of "Dummies" books. My expectations were low. I was pleasantly surprised that this book is exactly the kind of book I had been seeking to polish my English grammar skills.
This book contains twenty chapters organized into six parts. The parts and chapters are (using a summary version for some of the lengthy titles):
Part I: Grammar Basics
Chapter 1: Finding the Right Verb at the Right Time
Chapter 2: Pairing Subjects and Verbs Correctly
Chapter 3: Pronoun Basics
Chapter 4: Writing Complete Sentences
Part II: Mastering Mechanics
Chapter 5: The Comma
Chapter 6: Apostrophes
Chapter 7: Quotation Marks
Chapter 8: Capital Letters
Part III: Applying Proper Grammar in Tricky Situations
Chapter 9: Choosing the Best Pronoun: Case, Number, and Clarity
Chapter 10: Choosing the Right Verb for Tricky Sentences
Chapter 11: Are You and Your Verbs in the Right Mood?
Chapter 12: Writing for Electronic Media
Part IV: Describing and Comparing
Chapter 13: Adjectives and Adverbs
Chapter 14: Placing Descriptions Correctly
Chapter 15: Forming Comparisons
Part V: Improving Your Writing Style
Chapter 16: Parallel Writing
Chapter 17: Adding Spice and Cutting Fat from Your Sentences
Chapter 18: Steering Clear of Tricky Word Traps
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 19: Ten Overcorrections
Chapter 20: Ten Errors to Avoid at All Costs
Each chapter contains sections, with each section describing a grammar concept. Each section contains questions about the grammar concept (chapters 19 and 20 are the exception, as neither has any questions). The number of questions varies from a few to dozens. The answers for each chapter are at the end of the chapter, making checking of answers relatively easy, noting that chapters 19 and 20 are the exception, since neither has any questions.
At the end of the book is a marvelous appendix containing exercises with the title "Grabbing Grammar Goofs." The appendix has nearly 200 questions testing the concepts of the book. Thus, the appendix is a great way to determine how well a reader has learned the lessons of the twenty chapters.
Following the appendix is an index. I found the index to be of mixed value. I sometimes found it easier to flip through pages than to use the index because I could not always remember the name of the part of speech I was seeking. I suppose with sufficient practice remembering the names will become second nature.
The question is whether this book is effective, useful and valuable, and for whom this book might be valuable. I found the book to be extremely effective. For example, I have a nasty tendency to use "which" inappropriately. Let me provide an example of a sentence I might write. "I believe there are portions of this book that I will use daily, which is a very good thing." The word "which" is a pronoun that is supposed to be substituting for something in the previous sentence. However, in the case of my example I improperly used "which" to refer to most of the sentence.
There are many ways to rephrase my example sentence. One variation might be, "I believe there are portions of this book that I will use daily, meaning that this book could be quite beneficial." As you can see from this example, there could be dozens or even hundreds of correct ways to rephrase my example sentence. Therein is one of the difficulties of this book. This book is great for helping to remind me of what is right and wrong in English grammar. This book is less effective at answers to the question.
Does my criticism mean that this book is useless? A weakness does not mean the book is useless. The weakness means that the book will not be useful to all levels of English grammar students. I think that if you are using this book to recall rules you once learned, or need to figure out where you might have holes in your education, then this book is fantastic. I always thought my English grammar skills were above average. All it takes is a book like this to make one humble, or perhaps to embarrass someone who thought he, or she, was doing the right thing when he was not.
My biggest criticism of the book is the corny jokes. Some of them are mildly humorous. Many of the jokes just get in the way of getting to the important stuff. I suppose the author intended the jokes to help the learning experience. I found myself zipping through portions of the explanation that included the jokes. Unfortunately, I also accidentally zipped through some of the explanation, so I had to re-read some portions.
Who will not find this book useful? If you are trying to learn English grammar, this book is a poor starting point. There is too little explanation for each of the topics. On the other hand, if you use the book as an outline and augment each explanation with more research and practice, it could be an effective portion of a bigger learning plan.
I have been looking for a book that would provide me with an overview of English grammar. I thought I had gotten somewhat sloppy and needed something to put me back on track; I was right. This book was perfect for my needs. I can also see this book as a great help to prepare for the SAT, ACT or other test that asks detailed questions regarding English grammar.