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Handy but not comprehensive
on 23 June 2012
This is a handy concise guide to some of the more common matters of grammar and punctuation (and some of the less common ones too). Being alphabetically arranged it's quite easy to navigate through this book.
It's very small, and so it doesn't cover things in great depth, rather it focuses on the more common points and deals with them in a superficial yet informative and useful manner. In doing so it keeps things simple and accessible.
If you're looking for something comprehensive then this isn't for you at all. This is more for quick reference and checking things which come up regularly in speech and writing, and to gain a general understanding of the subject matter. I would say that this book is not ideal to learn or check finer points, and if you use this as I do then it'd meet many but not all of your requirements. For the price you can't complain though.
There were however one or two things which didn't sit right with me, for instance in the section on direct speech it states that "Each new piece of speech begins with a capital letter, even if it is not at the beginning of the sentence", however this isn't always true, for example:
"The shark," whispered the narrator, "is a deft hunter."
The book also claims that prepositions can be put at the end of sentences, and infinitives can be split. While I acknowledge that modern usage certainly conforms to these descriptions and they are much more acceptable than they used to be, there are other authorities which would still state the contrary, particularly with regards to formal writing.
A proper contents page and an index would also do no harm, and I feel it's a shame that they're missing. Even though the topics are arranged alphabetically, they'd still be useful.
In summary I'd say it's handy for most "every day" queries, but it lacks a lot of detail and doesn't go into many of the more technical aspects of grammar and punctuation. It really just depends on what you're looking for though, this book may well suit your needs. The number of pages and the dimensions of the book can perhaps be used as an indication of its level of detail. I'm guessing it would be ideal for GCSE students and younger (but if you're doing your GCSEs then best check with your teacher whether or not this book will be sufficient).