Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
on 7 December 2011
Sincerely speaking I do not understand how it is possible to consider this book amusing as other reviewers do. It might have several assets but humour is not one of them.
Dr. Heffer is a conservative grammarian and writes accordingly. He sets several rules of good grammar and style giving most of them no more justification than "logic"; sometimes he also quotes those he deems to be authoritative writers.
This approach is likely to irritate many people and renews the constant debate between prescriptive and liberal grammarians, the ones believing language should never change, the others believing usage to be the only rule setter.
My personal position lies somewhere inbetween: as an amateur linguist I am perfectly aware that language change is inevitable and that prescriptive grammarians are destined to be a frustrated lot. At the same time I cannot condone what Dr. Heffer rightly defines as "sloppiness".
Precision, conciseness and clarity are available to everyone with a little effort and tell everybody else the tale of a mind capable of ordering its thoughts and organising its work. They are therefore essential for those looking for a qualified job of any kind and should be essential for politicians and other public personalities. They might also be of help in dealing with several aspects of everyday life.
Most of the rules set by Dr. Heffer appear logical indeed if not always well explained and motivated. Some are more questionable.
The author also forces these rules into prose paragraphs while some schemes or diagrams might have been more helpful.
Splitting the longer chapters into better organised sections could have been helpful as well.
All in all this is a useful read but could be reworked into a better second edition.