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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
There are many things to love about this book.

First of all, the tone sits really well. It strikes the perfect balance between flexible common sense and comical, zero-tolerance outrage about grammar.

I loved the tweets along the bottom of every page - their acerbic, concise wit makes you smile before you've even read the two pages that are...
Published 15 months ago by Gary Nunn

versus
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I have written annual reports and like documents. I have aimed always for clarity - ...
Who buys books about the use of English? What do buyers expect and in this case, does the book fulfill their expectations?
I am a retired scientist. I have published many papers, and reviewed and edited papers by colleagues, I have written annual reports and like documents. I have aimed always for clarity - to inform not to impress. I have taken to writing essays;...
Published 6 months ago by Phil Symmons


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, 20 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
There are many things to love about this book.

First of all, the tone sits really well. It strikes the perfect balance between flexible common sense and comical, zero-tolerance outrage about grammar.

I loved the tweets along the bottom of every page - their acerbic, concise wit makes you smile before you've even read the two pages that are ahead.

David Marsh is both erudite and self-effacing; although he is the style guide editor of the Guardian, he's happy to point out where they've got it wrong, too. Often hilariously.

A highlight for me was the heated debate that rages on about use of the semi-colon; from 'insipid' to 'elegant' it's the best geeky debate I've read about in ages.

Counter-balancing the geekier elements are fun pop culture references, which will keep everyone happy.

Aside from all of the above, the comprehensive index also makes this a handy reference tool, especially for things I sometimes struggle with - like when to use 'which' or 'that.'

Another highlight was Gile's Coren's supercilious, expletive-ridden message to a sub-editor who made the tiniest of changes to his copy...has to be read to be believed.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, jargonless, easy-to-follow grammar, 27 Oct. 2013
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For Who the Bell Tolls, written by David Marsh, Production Editor, Guardian, has the subtitle: One Man's Quest for Grammatical Perfection, which gives the reader some idea that the book is a prescriptive analysis (which you'd expect from a journalist) of Grammar; but a lighthearted, humorous prescriptive analysis, I might add. David Marsh, who obviously loves language, puts it over beautifully that it's not about writing perfectly (if that's at all possible), but more about trying to attain perfection, and he does this by giving the reader the benefit of his considerable experience, particularly with reference to journalism and the internet.

Normally, I cringe when authors of specialist subjects try to be funny (just because I'm learning about grammar, doesn't mean I have to laugh at their `jokes'), but Marsh's use of humour is apt and relevant, and yes, it did make me chuckle, occasionally. Marsh even turns the humour on himself when comparing the number of words printed daily in the Guardian to that of the number of words in Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: "The Guardian publishes about 250,000 words on a typical weekday, many of them spelt correctly". And there's more of the same when Marsh attacks the corporate gibberish in ch. Attack of the Jargonauts (how to fight back). Marsh puts forward a very credible argument that, `political correctness' (if there is such a thing) has been a `force for good" in modern writing, and in ch. Political Correctness Gone Mad, he arguse that those who've ranted against `PC' are `losers'.

The book is concise but comprehensive, and I'm amazed that one reviewer on here (an English Teacher?) compares the book with Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves! There's a case for contrasting the two, but comparing? Also, throughout Marsh's book there are dozens and dozens of subtleties (see about the indefinite article in his `nosh' letter and how the absence of the `a' fundamentally changes meaning - metaphor) that an English teacher could use to the benefit of his/her students.

Excellent! A humorous, prescriptive account of grammar which gives the message that following `rules' that make no sense, makes no sense. Recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marsh takes the fight to the Berks and Wankers, 27 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
Words matter. In so many ways, they are the tools with which we chisel the shape of our lives. We use them to fall in love, to give identity to our young, to bury our dead. When we choose them badly, they can start wars; when we find that elusive eloquence, they can seal the peace. It's not just the words themselves are so important; it's also the ways in which we assemble them to achieve precision and clarity. Or, put differently, we achieve also ways in which the clarity and it's assemble them to precision.
In an age of incessant digital communication, such considerations have arguably never been more important, but one need only look to social media or the ubiquitous email and text to realise that standards of literacy and coherence may not be keeping pace with the flurry of words.
David Marsh stands out from the crowd as someone who recognises this and is prepared to stick his neck out and say it. Not in a preachy, didactic, or bossy way though. He is a gifted, funny, self-deprecating and concise communicator, which is why his pithy @guardianstyle tweet feeds have attracted 45,000 followers and rising. He and his editorial team provide a fascinating and bite-sized grammatical perspective on the flow of daily events, fighting by the second the good fight for clarity in public discourse.
The best of those Twitter exchanges sit as footnotes across the bottom of every page of this equally entertaining and equally readable new book that takes the Marsh message beyond social media and into more traditional literary form. It tries to take the fear out of grammar and to replace it with fun. It's good. It's instructive. It's helpful. And it manages to keep a smile on its face even as it takes us through the deep principles of sentence construction that many of us never managed to master in grammar at school, (that's "grammar at school", not Grammar School). Subject-verb-object? Look no further than The Beatles, says Marsh. She Loves You. He turns, at various points, to both Berks and Wankers for help in underlining some of his key messages. The Wankers? They're the linguistic pedants who may have killed your interest in the classroom by being, according to Marsh, "prissy, fussy, priggish and prim". They'll tell you that you should never start a sentence with a conjunction like And. They prefer inflexible rules to evolving language. The Berks are the ones who go too far in the other direction by thinking none of it matters. Hence, he says, they think they can protest things, without actually clarifying what they protest against.
In short, this book can help all of us to communicate better. It can do much to help reinforce our confidence in celebrating the good and tackling the bad. If you're both a grammarian and an iconoclast, you'll delight in Chapter 8, in which he lambasts the "Jargonauts" who use weak, dishonest language to manipulate and abuse positions of power and authority.
Like its sister book, Guardian Style, this is a text that should move on and off your bookshelf regularly as you consult it in times of need. But it will also repay reading from start to finish. Read the whole thing and you will understand why David Marsh might help his Uncle Jack off his horse, but would never help his uncle jack off his horse. If he were to do that, he would be both a berk and a wanker.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, not just for grammar, 4 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
I bought this for my daughter but have ended up dipping into it so much that I have pretty much read the whole thing. The author is superb and confident when it comes to grammar, but what makes the book stand out (as well as the warm, chatty style) are his thoughts on the idea of 'political correctness gone mad'. I found it brave and moving, and it really made me think about the damage caused by words used carelessly.
As a sub-editor I expected to enjoy it, but when it was left lying around on holiday last week, family members who would never normally spend time reading a grammar book picked it up and all found something to interest them. I'd recommend it as a Christmas present for anyone with the slightest stirrings of love for the English language.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A pity about the index, 31 Mar. 2014
This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
There's a lot of good sense in this book. It's a decent read and many of the guidelines make sense. There's also plenty to get infuriated about, especially as he decides to label the (valid) English spoken by many of us of more mature years as "pompous". But that's inevitable - any book which moves from rules to usage is bound to come across as opinionated.

It's a great shame that the book doesn't contain a better index. If you later decide that you want to check whether to use "blond" or "blonde", for example, you won't easily find it within the book, because the structure is somewhat fluid, and the index is no help. That's a shame, but it's an interesting book, nonetheless.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accessible, light hearted book about language, 29 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
I wasn't quite sure what to make of a "light hearted" book about grammar, as I don't normally like the likes of Lynne Truss and worry that if you try to make language too light hearted you might end up excessively dumbing down, but that's not the case with this one. The first thing to note about this book is that it's not really just about grammar at all - it's about language in all its forms, from whether it is sexist to write "him/her" or "they" or anything else, to whether the cult computer game in-joke "All of your base are belong to us" is funny or not. The writer has gone to some quite extreme lengths to find examples from pop culture to reinforce his argument, which could be cringy, but actually works quite well. I especially liked the quotes from Shakespeare, Pope and other canonical writers using language that some more proscriptive critics argue is "too modern" and there are some good anecdotes from the newspaper world too, like Giles Coren's letter to sub editors (which I actually sided with Giles Coren over - it must be pretty annoying to have the sense of your article edited into oblivion, but never mind). I think this book would go down well with someone who wants a bit of a language overview but in a slightly more accessible way than whatever great dusty linguistic tomes you might get in university libraries.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't have bought it had I known it was so left-wing., 12 Jan. 2015
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This is an entertaining and informative book on a fascinating subject, written by someone who knows grammar well and obviously has a high regard for it. It is unfortunate that, after Chapter 7, the book becomes a vehicle for the author's political views; if you are not a card-carrying member of the left wing of the Labour party, firmly wedded to AGW and political correctness, you might be better off looking elsewhere for enlightenment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and accessible, 17 Mar. 2014
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Tony Jones "Tony" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
David Marsh has made a decent effort to produce a book on grammar (and wider English usage) that can be read rather than sit on a shelf. I liked the many references to popular music and culture and I enjoyed the use of tweets in footnotes.

Inevitably all such books descend into sets of lists towards the back and this is no exception; this doesn't detract too much from what is a well-priced readable reference work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always trying to improve, 9 Jan. 2014
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Thank you Amazon for a speedy delivery as always.

I love this book because it teaches grammar in a very cleaver way, at least for me. Through the words of some of the most famous songs. This tactic made me keep reading, contrary to other grammar books where I left it after the first couple of pages.
The twitter questions and answers are stupendous, I already found a few mistakes of my own.

Thank you to David Marsh for this great book, and to Amazon for the excellent Customer service.
Elena
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and useful, 28 Oct. 2013
This review is from: For Who the Bell Tolls (Hardcover)
Refreshingly witty guide to the rules of English grammar that you need to know, and liberatingly, those you can ditch. I now feel free to boldly go about splitting infinitives and sprinkling my prose with gerunds. Recommended for those who want to learn to write clearer English.
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For Who the Bell Tolls
For Who the Bell Tolls by David Marsh (Hardcover - 3 Oct. 2013)
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