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on 22 December 2010
This is an excellent book. I have been a freelance editor and book reviewer for many years, and heartily support everything the author says (with the possible exception of his stricture on split infinitives).It should be compulsory reading for every student entering secondary education, and should certainly be on every teacher's bookshelf - and I don't mean just teachers of English. Highest recommendations.
Graham Saxby
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on 1 January 2014
Even if you think you understand proper use of the English language you will learn plenty from this book. This is no brick wall of text or, equally bad, a dry list of rules, to put off the reader. Instead, it is an educational and enjoyable presentation on why the language makes sense because of a structure and a set of rules that have survived many centuries. It doesn't rule out evolution through the introduction of new words when needed to describe new things, but it rails against imprecision and ambiguity caused by lazy or pretentious misuse of terms and words, simple failure to understand what jobs words do, and saves a particular venom for pomposity and deliberate attempts to use language to conceal or mislead. Examples are given for almost every point that wouldn't otherwise be obvious, which helps a lot. He allows himself room to disagree with some noted authors on this subject and, in turn, I disagreed with some of his opinions, though not on any technical points. This made the read more inclusive and enjoyable.
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on 10 March 2014
I've got Fowler's and the Economist Style Guide on the shelf, as well as Chambers' English Dictionary and Compact Thesaurus, but it is to Simon Heffers's offering that I most frequently turn. I enjoy using it, and I suppose it reinforces my own prejudices to some extent. The trouble is, that when I want to check up on something specific (and the indispensable index helps here), I tend to read on rather than getting back to the work in hand, because it's a 'good read' as well as being a useful guide. Although I've spent a lifetime as a civil servant, working the area of science, I confess to never having referred to or owned a copy of Gowers's 'Plain Words' so I don't know what I've missed there. But I find that Heffer meets all current requirements as I continue my largely factual writing and reporting in semi-retirement. My paperback edition is now not inconsiderably (watch it!) dog-eared and it would have been nice to have had a good case-bound edition that could have better stood up to continual use.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 August 2012
This is an excellent book for any student or teacher of English. The author is knowledgeable and has his own views on correct English which he explains lucidly and in an interesting fashion. The major headings and sub-headings are:
Part One - The Rules: the building blocks of English; from clauses to paragraphs; spelling and punctuation
Part Two - bad English: bad grammar; the wrong word; the wrong tone; three sinners
Part Three - good English: the essence of good style; three saints.
The reason I have given it only four stars is that the writing can be quite complex and so it is not always easy to find a particular point in the book. I quote his own style: "Correct grammar - the use of words in their orthodox relation to other words - is not difficult to master." This itself could be expressed more simply, for example. Yet it is a most useful handbook on this controversial subject and well worth buying as an antidote to sloppiness or the view that good grammar does not matter: he convinces you that it does.
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on 17 March 2013
This book is a wonderful collection of points on how to write and not to write English. Should be in everyone's library.
Simon Heffer obviously loves the language and his writing is concise and to the point, with nice humourous touches.
I did not give it 5 stars because it could have done with a better list of the definitions of grammar terminology and many of his examples could have used more elaboration and presentation in the form of bullet points rather than long paragraphs.
I can see why some people only gave this book a 1 or 2 star rating - Mr Heffer takes many opportunities to poke fun at those who write badly and need this book, so those same people no doubt take offence. I suggest they get over it and improve their English!
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on 14 October 2010
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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on 13 October 2010
A total delight. Should be made compulsory reading and understanding for the current generation of poorly speaking English. Foreigners speak our own language better than we do!

David Lethbridge
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on 15 November 2014
Strictly English is an excellent book. If I thought the book would be appreciated, I'd pass copies to several state agencies here in Ireland. Their grammar can tend towards poor to appalling at times. I have an interest in grammar and in the correct way to write and I find myself dipping into the book on a regular basis. I'm not on a mission to convert my children and grandchildren to writing English in a proper style but I can, at least, try and improve my own use of the language. Therefore, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the use of proper English.
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on 27 April 2014
SimonnHeffer's counsel and guidance is painstaking and beyond criticism. For the perfectionist writer this would be a book not to be without.
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on 12 October 2010
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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