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Lots of interesting nuggets, but a missed opportunity too!
on 11 December 2013
A beautifully bound book, but does it deserve a place on your library shelf, or will it eventually be passed on to a friend or charity shop? It contains an odd mixture, beginning with grammar and punctuation. Some topics are covered well, while others are rushed. The section on the punctuation of direct speech is almost definitive, one of the best I've ever read. However, their explanation of the gerund differs from any other I have seen, and even the examples they give look wrong to me. Tenses are neatly presented in a table, but important concepts like the participle are glossed over in a flash. Annoyingly, the book contradicts its own title by appending school-style exercises to each section--I wonder how many "grown-ups" will bother with these. Even school books, nowadays, shy away from this patronising technique in favour of comprehensive examples to illustrate the points being made.
From here on in the book struggles to find its identity. Sections on local vocabulary and spelling for the U.S. and other parts of the world are interesting but feel out of place. Who is this book for? It contains lots of interesting nuggets but falls short as a definitive guide to style and usage, lacking purpose, structure and proportion. Without doubt its greatest failing is the lack of an index. Even the contents page is a mere single leaf containing the page numbers of the six sections. A comprehensive index is an essential part of any reference work, and its absence in this case defines the book as an interesting curiosity, rather than one to keep and treasure. I have long craved a single definitive volume that covers grammar, punctuation, style and usage, comprehensive yet not too pedantic or academic. Sadly, my search continues.