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Strictly English: The correct way to write ... and why it matters Paperback – 1 Sep 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099537931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099537939
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"An impassioned case for correct English, full of practical advice" (Country Life)

"Every one of us who gasps at the use of English in the papers each morning or harrumphs on turning on the radio will find much to applaud" (The Spectator)

"I have spent several productive hours reading Strictly English" (Jeffrey Archer Daily Telegraph)

"His evidently strong feelings about his subject, fluently expressed, make this book lively and engrossing" (Times Literary Supplement)

"The Holy Grail of grammar ... It is a delight to read and learn from this book" (Field)

Book Description

The Telegraph's master English stylist shows how it's done

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some may find this book overly prescriptive. I welcome it because it recognises 'proper' English as a definable and achievable standard - a much needed antidote to the lost generation of English education, with its victims of dumbing down and political correctness.

Heffer is very authoritative, quoting Fowler, Onions, Orwell, Partridge et al on the finer points of English grammar, but it is his straightforward, no-nonsense style and witty asides that made this book an engaging read for me. His best advice is less on grammar than on writing style: keep your sentences short and pithy, and use killer nouns in preference to adjectives.
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Format: Hardcover
"Strictly English" by Simon Heffer is a book which attracted me because I struggled at school with English and thus developed a morbid fascination for the instrument of my childhood torture. Right at the outset, I must say that it is not just a reference book, but a jolly good read too. It is divided into sections which deal with the basic rules of our language, linguistic mistakes (and how to avoid them) and finally a section on good English. He says "The ideal condition of a language is where it allows communication without ambiguity or confusion", a proposition with which nobody could disagree, and the aim of the book is to help the reader to reach that goal in both writing and speech.

I was delighted to find a section on the subjunctive. Not only does he describe this mood of the verb, but he also puts forward a strong case for regretting its demise. On the other hand, it provides very convincing proof that a language can function well without its subjunctive, a point which will doubtless be lost on the Germans, Spaniards, French and Italians who still have it in their mother tongue.

Mr. Heffer expends much effort in his description of the correct use of the relative pronouns 'that' and 'which', after reading which I was quite confused. It is about time that English abolished the distinction in meaning between the two, also between 'shall' and 'will', because it would make life simpler for everybody. Sentences can be recast to express the distinctions which these different forms are supposed to express, but which few people understand.

Mr. Heffer deals beautifully with some of my pet peeves: the sloppy use of `if' instead of `whether', `different to' instead of `different from', and the old chestnut of `less' instead of `fewer'.
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Format: Hardcover
The two most negative reviewers of this book, David Crystal and Geoff Pullum, had three main criticisms:

1) Heffer sometimes breaks his own style rules. He regularly uses the passive, for instance, frequently writes long sentences, and often uses long words.
2) Heffer's strictures on grammar are prescriptive, old-fashioned and sometimes broken by prestigious writers.
3) Heffer is merely imposing his own whims and peeves on his readers.

None of these criticisms is particularly strong. Heffer may not always do as he says, but what he says is still usually worth doing; indeed, Crystal and Pullum themselves both write prose that largely conforms to Heffer's rules. Regarding the second point, we either accept prescriptive rules aimed at producing clarity, precision and elegance, or we ultimately just say that any usage must be recognised as legitimate if it is common enough. Finally, Crystal and Pullum complain about whims and peeves, but they just want to impose their own whims and peeves instead.

If you want a reasonably thorough overview of traditional English grammar and prose style, buy this book. It is curmudgeonly, and wrong in places, but it is a useful corrective to politically correct verbiage. Moreover, as Heffer says, 'whether the linguistic experts like it or not, there remains an idea of "standard English" as it is spoken in Britain...These standards are set by an educated class...and those who wish to be included, or to consider themselves included, in that class must subscribe to the rules.'
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Format: Hardcover
I found Simon Heffer's book extremely useful and illuminating. I think this book should be recommended reading for all students and teachers so that clear, written and oral communication can become the order of the day. I am sick of hearing and reading "We were sat" and "I was stood", from university educated people, including some teachers of English! On page 185 Heffer explains clearly why these expressions are incorrect.
I taught GCSE English, A Level and GCSE Literature and TEFL for over 30 years and found that most foreign pupils spoke and wrote more grammatical English than did most natives of UK. The English language has changed over the centuries and is still evolving but there remains a need for clear, well-expressed language using non-ambiguous expressions and accurate vocabulary. Let's get rid of sloppiness.
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Format: Hardcover
If you expected to be amused as well as informed by this book, you should be warned; Heffer is no Lyn Truss. The title is Strictly English and Heffer comes across as a stern school master. I once got into severe trouble for waking my wife up at 1 AM in the morning because I burst out laughing reading Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves in bed. Strictly English poses no such dangers; reading it you will be asleep well before your spouse. Heffer's approach to English is Calvinistic, he sees much sin and offers little prospect of delight. If you read his book and managed to finish it you will have learned much. However, most people will give up before the end.
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