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Fowler's Modern English Usage (Re-Revised 3rd Edition) [Hardcover]

R. W. Burchfield
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Sep 2004
Fowler's Modern English Usage is the world-famous guide to English usage, loved and used by writers of all kinds. In keeping with its long tradition, Fowler's gives comprehensive and practical advice on grammar, syntax, style, and choice of words. It gives a clear and authoritative picture of the English we use, and elucidates many scores of usage questions such as the split infinitive and the intricacies of political correctness. It gives in-depth coverage of both British and American English with reference to the English of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. The volume includes wide-ranging examples of usage from a broad selection of newspapers, journals, and books from across the globe, and features illustrative quotations from authors such as Agatha Christie, Chinua Achebe, Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter, and Noel Coward. Based on the evidence and research of the Oxford Dictionaries Programme, this is the most comprehensive and authoritative guide to usage available. The third edition of 1996 provided a complete revision and an expansion of the original text, bringing the book fully up to date on all matters of grammar, usage, syntax, and style.This is a reissue of the revised third edition of 1998, which includes a new Supplement and revised entries. Replaces isbn 0198602634.

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Fowler's Modern English Usage (Re-Revised 3rd Edition) + New Hart's Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors (Reference) + New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors: The Essential A-Z Guide to the Written Word (Reference)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Re-Revised 3rd edition (23 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198610211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198610212
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.9 x 4.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


[Fowler's Modern English Usage] offers impeccable advice. The Times

About the Author

The original 'Fowler' was Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933), a teacher and writer. He was also the author, with his brother Francis, of The King's English (1906) and the first edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1911). Robert Burchfield (1923-2004), a New Zealander by birth, held the post of Chief Editor of Oxford English Dictionaries between 1971 and 1984 and was the Editor of the final volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary Supplements. He was also the editor of The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1986) and, with C. T. Onions and G. W. S. Friedrichsen, of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1966).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
174 of 189 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really Fowlerian 3 May 2004
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
Unlike the second edition of this venerable classic, this, the third, is thoroughly revised and brought up to date by R. W. Burchfield whose distinguished credentials include having been the Chief Editor of the Oxford English dictionaries from 1971 to 1984 and an editor of the Cambridge History of the English Language. The problem is that in doing so he has greatly lessened the prescriptive intent of Mr. Fowler and offended many readers.
Let's begin with the Preface in which he has the temerity of damning H.W. Fowler himself with faint praise and something close to dismissal. Burchfield asks: "Why has this schoolmasterly, quixotic, idiosyncratic, and somewhat vulnerable book...retained its hold on the imagination of all but professional linguistic scholars for just on seventy years?" (p. ix) One gets the sense that Burchfield is going to straighten matters out forthwith. He adds, "Fowler's name remains on the title-page, even though his book has been largely rewritten..." In the next sentence he refers to Fowler's book as a "masterpiece," but adds that "it is a fossil all the same" while intimating that its scholarly scope did not extend beyond "the southern counties of England in the first quarter of the twentieth century." (p. xi)
From there we go to the entries themselves and find on page one that the suffix "-a" is now
being printed more and more to present the sound that replaces "of" in rapid (esp. demotic) speech, as in "kinda" (=kind of), loadsa, sorta.
The problem with this is there is no acknowledgment that such usage, especially in written English, is substandard. Even in the entry on "demotic English," Burchfield merely notes that such formulations as "gotta," "shoulda," etc. are becoming more common.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Fans of Fowler will be greatly disappointed by this book, which seems to include nothing written by Fowler, but displays his name in large letters on the spine and cover. Burchfield admits in the preface that he does not understand Fowler's appeal, and does not even like his work: "The mystery remains: why has this schoolmasterly, quixotic, idiosyncratic, and somewhat vulnerable book, in a form only lightly revised once, in 1965, by Ernest Gowers, retained its hold on the imagination of all but professional linguistic scholars for just on seventy years?" The answer to this question, I think, can be found in the how Burchfield and Fowler advise the reader on whether to put the period inside or outside of quotation marks. Burchfield begins with a wimpy "each system has its own merit", and proceeds to an absolute rule: Quotation marks "must be placed according to the sense". Even Garner (A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, a far better book for American readers), who has great praise for Fowler, simply sets out conventional American and British usage. Only Fowler provides an analytical structure ("There are two schools of thought, which might be called the conventional and the logical") and then through clear thinking and perceptive example persuades us that "The conventional system flouts common sense, and it is not easy for the plain man to see what merit it is supposed to have to outweigh that defect". Persuasion is the element that Burchfield and other writers lack. Read more ›
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61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful for those "difficult" questions 26 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Being British, I never suffered any lack of confidence with using English until I moved abroad. Then suddenley I was buried beneath a landslide of both technical and non-technical questions regarding "correct" English which required more than "intuitive" answers. On holiday back in England, Fowler's was recommended to me, but on first glance it looked stuffy and old so I bought the Penguin "Longman Guide to English Usage". Sadly - the Penguin book turned out to be next to useless, so I bought Fowler's on my next trip home. It is now my best reference source after a comprehensive dictionary. The book is laid out like a dictionary, with words and phrases in alphabetical order. It concentrates on words,phrases,endings, and other grammatical items which are often mis-used or forgotten. The entries try to give an explanation of correct usage, including origins of current use (and abuse). It can be a little difficult to follow sometimes, and it doesn't have EVERYTHING in it, but it's the best book of it's kind I've found so far (and I've looked at many). It's particularly useful on matters of English purism - e.g. traditional English English vs. American English, use of "that" vs. "which", "enquiry" vs. "inquiry" etc. I would certainly recommend it to those who are interested enough to want to understand the finer details of English writing.
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105 of 121 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It has the name but has lost the content 16 July 2001
By A Customer
I have read the original and second edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage and they have the true essence of Fowler in them. This book, however, contains very little of Fowler's original work and views on English usage and might as well have been called Burchfield's English Usage as it is clear that he, in editing this book, has taken out all of the things which made Fowler the best English usage book, and added in his own views on the matters. He has simply used the good name of Fowler to put forward his own grammatical rules, which are not a patch on Fowler's, resulting in a very poor book. If you want the true Fowler, and I recommend it, then buy the first or second edition. They may be slightly outdated, but are far better than this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Pain Like You've Never Imagined
Studying this book to improve your grammar is like having your incisor teeth sharpened with eight sheets of glass paper.
Published 1 month ago by Dan Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know about what's acceptable in UK English, this is the...
I was introduced to Fowler's when I was in the secondary school and the Latin master was horrified by our poor English. The book was in the library and we all started to use it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Gareth Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars I prefer the previous edition.
Not as easy to find my way around as the edition by Sir Ernest Gowers. Maybe I'll get used to it.
Published 7 months ago by John Ivil
5.0 out of 5 stars Fowlers
Excellent edition of this well established classic with some slight condescention toward modern parlance!

six more words requires to conform
Published 9 months ago by Dr. Jeffrey J. Purcell
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I wanted!
Everything I wanted and needed for my proof-reading course. Hopefully I can be successful and give up my day job!
Published 9 months ago by suec
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I wanted
This book was just what I wanted - I am really glad that I found it it is great thanks
Published 13 months ago by divaddrof
5.0 out of 5 stars Fowler's Modern English Usage
this is a very amusing but informative book, and just what I need to make learning about my mother tongue more fascinating than it already is. Words are fascinating things. Read more
Published 17 months ago by mark
4.0 out of 5 stars BUY IT; IGNORE CRITICS. READ P. 865 IN PREVIEW
The criticism has been answered and explained in the supplement by the author (p. 865 onwards). Just buy it; it's an honest piece of work from someone who cares about the language. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Vikas Gupta
5.0 out of 5 stars Fowler's Modern English Usage
Must-have for all copy-editors, proofreaders and other wordsmiths. To delve into, though one can get sidetracked by the clear and user-friendly layout! Excellent!
Published 21 months ago by Mrs. C. Steel
5.0 out of 5 stars A useful, practical reference - you've got to have it!
I use this book lots, and always keep it handy when I'm writing. The explanations are long enough to be clear and comprehensive, and there are lots of examples of how words should... Read more
Published on 7 April 2012 by Ian Howlett
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