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Mind the Gaffe!: A Troubleshooter's Guide to English Style and Usage [Paperback]

R. L. Trask
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Dec 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061132209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061132209
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 13.5 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,877,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars useful book 27 Jun 2012
By T
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this is a useful book and also easy to understand! An electric version would be better for me but anyway reasonable price and I can recommend this to students and other writers
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong opinions 21 May 2007
By ThirdShift - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't know why this printing also appears as "Say What You Mean!" by the same author, the content and layout is identical.

Do you know the difference between "deism" and "theism"? Or "logogram" and "ideogram"? Do you know the proper use of "comprise", "consist", "compose", and "constitute"? Linguist and professor Trask lays it out for you. If she had read this book, Octopussy would have said, "My father became a leading authority on OCTOPUSES." Not "octopi." If they had read this book, a major advertising company would not have written me asking if I was "interested or disinterested" in their product.

Arranged like a dictionary, here are 288 pages of the most misunderstood, misused, abused words in English. Trask also throws in a handful of style and usage guide, making this book useful to have at arm's reach. However, a minor quibble. The author has strong opinions on post-modernist writing in general, and some words specifically. Woe if you should use "hegemonic", "hermeneutic" or "non-linear" in your writing because it marks you immediately as a content-free post-mod moron. Trask may be on to something here, but I'm not sure opinions belong in a book such as this. Take another example, if you use the word "permissiveness", I quote here verbatim: " ... you're obviously fulminating about something. Maybe you should calm down." In the author's world, you don't make mistake in writing, you commit "blunders", you create "howlers", you appear "illiterate", your writing appears "idiotic" and you will be "immediately dismissed" by your readers for writting "nonsense."

This is the book form of a semester study with a smart, eccentric, curmudgeon-ly but beloved writing prof. If Trask weren't so saltily opinionated, the book wouldn't have been so fun to read, or stuck with me long after I read it. For that I suppose I could forget the quibble. There is one glaring error under the entry "Vietnamese Names", though. Trask got it backward, Vietnamese write their surname first. This shocking error is delivered with the same cocksure attitude about everything the author cares to opine on throughout the book making me wonder what else he's so certain about that's wrong.

I highly recommend this book, either to augment your style guides or to thumb through once in a while and make notes to yourself. There is one word which I have misspelled for years, "restaurateur" is correct, not "restauranteur." Professor Trask died in 2004, but I hope someone takes up this book and publish a second edition.
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