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Strictly English: The correct way to write ... and why it matters Paperback – 1 Sep 2011
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"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)
The Telegraph's master English stylist shows how it's doneSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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'.Read more ›
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.'
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quite witty. Worth reading. Would have received 5 stars but for Heffer's snobbery. Heffer's explanation of the conditional and the subjunctive is excellent.Published 3 months ago by Jw
This was a gift for Christmas and the recipient thought it was a great bookPublished 6 months ago by Mrs Joan Henderson
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