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Fowler's Modern English Usage (Re-Revised 3rd Edition) Hardcover – 23 Sep 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Re-Revised 3rd edition (23 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198610211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198610212
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 4.6 x 14.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 261,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

[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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 194 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ian Howlett VINE VOICE on 7 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
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 and should not be used.
Some reviewers have commented that this third edition isn't true to Fowler himself. Well, language changes, and given that Fowler himself died in 1933, of course this third edition differs from the original! Quite right too!
If you want the original, buy the original. If you want advice on how to write today, you've got to buy this.
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108 of 124 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 July 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Sept. 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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