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Mind the Gaffe: The Penguin Guide to Common Errors in English [Paperback]

R L Trask
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 July 2002
Can anything be described as 'very real'? There are so many obstacles on the way to writing clear, precise ('accurate'?) English ('english'?) that it is a wonder ('wander'?) anyone ('any one' or 'anyone'?) can be understood. Fortunately, all those who have ever feared being shown up by using one of the twenty worst words and phrases to be avoided at all costs, or confusing the complex with the complicated, can now relax and even enjoy a trouble-shooting guide to good writing. Trask's wonderfully readable and authoritative book adjudicates on hundreds of contentious issues from politically correct language to whether to write 'napkin' or 'serviette'.

Frequently Bought Together

Mind the Gaffe: The Penguin Guide to Common Errors in English + The Penguin Guide to Punctuation (Penguin Reference Books) + The Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar (Penguin Reference Books)
Price For All Three: 24.17

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (25 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140514767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140514766
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Intelligent, reliable and lively ... this book is great' -- The Guardian, August 10th, 2002

'It is good to see there is someone out there hunting down...serial abusers of English' -- The Guardian, August 10th, 2002

'The book produces satisfied murmurs of content and cries of ''Tell it like it is, baby'' ' -- The Guardian, August 10th, 2002

About the Author

Larry Trask is the author of such well-received books as The Penguin Guide to Punctuation and The Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar. He was born in western New York State in 1944 and came to England in 1970. He now teaches at the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book you are looking for 21 Nov 2007
This is an excellent book. Writing forms a large part of my work and I refer to this book almost every day. I encourage others to do the same.

Anyone who yearns for plain English and despairs at pompous, officious writing will find the book a joy to read. The subtitle of this book `Common Errors in English' is a very accurate description of the contents. These errors are very common; so common are they that many came as a complete surprise to me. And I thought I knew my stuff.

Written in a wry style, this book should be on the desk of anyone who writes regularly. The page on split infinitives is worth the admission price, because never again will you worry about such nonsense.
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139 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a joy! 31 Oct 2001
By A Customer
For all of us language nerds, it is immensely reassuring to find that someone else cares as much as we do, knows a lot more than we do, and is better at presenting his material than we could ever hope to be. This book is alphabetically arranged (is there any other way, for us nerds?) and covers a selection of pitfalls in the English language, both at word and syntax level. Does it tell me things I didn't already know? Certainly, but I'm afraid any dull grammar does that - the winning ingredient in this book is its dry (dare I say acerbic?) humor, which mocks pretentiousness and reveals how muddled language is always a symptom of muddled thinking, no matter how many syllables or buzz-words have been used. Another plus is its willingness to take a stand, and tell the reader which solution is the preferable one. Of course, in an academic language study, the descriptive approach is the only one, but when it comes to usage guides, prescription is definitely called for, even if it smacks of school-marmish pontificating, and the author sits bravely, but securely, in the saddle of his language high horse.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well said, sir! 11 Nov 2008
This is an excellent guide to English usage, common errors and much else.

Trask can spot pretentious nonsense at forty paces and, thankfully, doesn't sit on the fence. The result is an authoritative book that sometimes made me laugh out loud as the author exposes and debunks some of the myths and nonsense that are still regularly encountered.

I share his dislike of the incomprehensible affected twaddle that so many academics and managers inflict on us.

I've since read a number of R.L. Trask's books and they're all outstanding. 'Language: The Basics' is brilliant and his guide to punctuation is quite simply the clearest and best available. Mr Trask is a truly talented writer and communicator. I wish more academics could write and explain ideas like him.

Those starting out on trying to improve their English might just occasionally find it a bit deep. I'd say 'Troublesome Words' by Bill Bryson is an excellent companion, but I'd definitely want this book to go with it. Reading two different, and well written, explanations is often a great help when dealing with an unfamiliar topic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Help with English 24 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this a very readable book. It covered most of the common mistakes made in using English and I pick it up for guidance every so often
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning never stops 16 April 2011
By Dimis
This is a very useful book for all those learning English. It is also very helpful for everyone who wants to refine the use of English language. I find fun every now and then surfing through the pages without any special need.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It would be better if it wasn't so opinionated 14 Aug 2011
By abraxis
On the plus side this book is interesting because it covers some of the differences between American and British English, useful for the spelling errors. Unfortunately, the book is spoilt by the author's opinionated style of writing. He makes digs and jibes at anything he takes a dislike to. It's really not want I want in a grammar book, it just has no place and is really inappropriate. Some of his statements regarding a couple of technical grammar points I also completely disagreed with but that's a minor point. If you can somehow filter out the author's own opinions then this book could be useful but I wish he would learn to write and keep his opinions to himself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable book if it matters to you
Grammar is important if you want people to get the impression that you are paying attention to what you are saying or treating your audience with respect, so it is good to see that... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Mr. Ronald M. Thomson
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read for a grammar book!
This was recommended to me by my teacher for help with English writing. It is useful for various common grammatical misconceptions and is actually quite interesting to read rather... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Beckyboots
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as are most things written by Larry Trask
If you hate grammar and punctuation yet fancy yourself as someone who can write, then you can do no better than consulting Trask. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by Dago
2.0 out of 5 stars Good book...not for a kindle
Mind the Gaffe is a good book, and I can highly recommend its content. Why only 2 stars? I bought it for use on my Kindle. Big mistake. Read more
Published on 19 Jan 2011 by tennisbum
1.0 out of 5 stars It's not funny and it's not clever
I bought this book because of its witty punning title and Penguin's reputation for publishing excellent titles like the "Penguin Writer's Manual". Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2008 by Steve Longden
2.0 out of 5 stars OK
I'm glad i only borrowed this book from a local library and did not buy it. Whilst some readers may find it very useful, I found it too 'heavy' a read. Read more
Published on 25 Aug 2007 by Jordan Buck
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