The college where I teach English composition used Rules for Writers as the Handbook for three or four years. It now uses the Bedford Handbook. I found Rules for Writers to be very full and useful for every aspect of teaching, not only grammar and punctuation, but for composition and research writing as well. It tends to have fairly exhaustive explanations of most points of grammar. It has an especially good section on ESOL problems. All in all, it is a practical useful book that I keep on my writing desk for my own use, even though it is no longer used in our classes.
I was usually able to teach my courses without using any other text other than this book and the required reader. Before we had Rules and currently with the Bedford Handbook (also by Daina Hacker), I had to rely on handouts taken from the internet to emphasize areas like MLA documentation and developing cohesion in paragraphs and essays or to provide remedial materials for students with problems. With Rules for Writers, and also with the Little, Brown Handbook, another good handbook, I found better supplementary materials right in the book than anything I found on the Net.
The biggest problem with Rules for Writers is its spiral bound soft cover format. This book does not hold up. Pages fall out, the cover falls off, and the book gets banged up. I would have to replace it every semester, if only not to be embarassed by the wrecked appearance my copy would have when it was time to display the textbook on the first day of class!
Now as a professor who gets free textbooks, that is not a big problem. However, for students who are simply robbed blind paying for text books and may be required to use a handbook like this in a series of classes--and should always keep a handbook like this for reference in and out of school--having a book that falls apart and constantly needs replacing can be financial murder.
Still, I prefer this book to the Bedford Handbook. The Bedford Handbook is handbook in name only and does not have as many features or as deep coverage as books like Rules for Writers or the Little, Brown Handbook. It is a kind of dumbing down of the information here. Visually the Bedford Handbook is better as a visual object and has nice illustrations, charts and pictures. It is also well integrated with Diana Hacker's maze of web sites. However, if any professor is trying to decide between the Bedford and Rules for Writers, get Rules for Writers.