The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style

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9780618604999: The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style
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This authoritative survey of English usage, grammar, and style offers guidance on almost any writing problem imaginable. Arranged in a single, easy-to-use A Z list, the guide’s 1,500 entries include examples and quotations that show not only correct and incorrect usage but also the relative effectiveness of different expressions in context.

The guide also presents the opinions of the American Heritage® Usage Panel a group of two hundred prominent writers, scholars, and scientists who are polled on traditional and emerging usage problems. The panel makes clear when attitudes about a word are changing, when old chestnuts have been laid to rest, and when today’s innovations are likely to become tomorrow’s standards.

This book confronts traditional bugbears, such as disinterested and lay vs. lie, along with a variety of new challenges, such as seeking closure and begging the question. Commonly confused words, such as impinge and infringe, are teased apart. Notes on science terms explain the difference between popular and technical uses of words like relativity and exponential growth. Rulings are given for tough calls on grammatical controversies, redundancy, and parallelism, and sensible guidance is provided on punctuation, capitalization, and other conventions of style. Both readable and well researched, this book is an eminently sensible source of advice on how to use words effectively.

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About the Author:

The Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries are a team of professional lexicographers with advanced degrees in various scholarly fields. The editors familiarize themselves with the vocabulary in specific subject areas, collect materials on new developments and usage, and work with expert consultants to ensure that the content of our publications is as accurate and as up-to-date as possible.

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In this age when Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org] and Wiktionary [http://en.wiktionary.org] allow anyone to be a self-appointed subject expert or lexicographer, The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style acknowledges the inexorable force of popular usage while it also honors canonical authority. Drawing on the authoritative knowledge of its lexicographers and the considered collective judgment of a panel of noted writers, the book offers guidance on the simple (the pronunciations of bouquet); the perplexingly redundant (free gift); the often imprecisely used (impeach); the no longer distinct (healthful/healthy); the needless but persistent (irregardless); the easily confused (stationary/stationery); the unfortunately conflated (lay/lie); and many more pitfalls. Articles embodying the precision and lucidity of dictionary definitions explain the history of a word's or expression's usage issue, how and why the issue exists, and the preferred usage. Advice on acceptable usage in informal language such as daily speech and recommended usage in formal language such as writing often differ. Examples from newspapers, literature, and Web sites as well as reports of the usage panel's responses bolster the explanations. Entries such as lady/ladylike testify to the potent influence that gender issues and sexual politics have had on usage. The he/she entry even offers ways to avoid the generic he. The Guide also includes entries on grammar issues such as absolute constructions, the double passive, nominative case, plural nouns, and the subjunctive.

With fewer entries but a more popular touch, this complements Bryan Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage (Oxford, 1998) and Pam Peters' international Cambridge Guide to English Usage (Cambridge, 2004). None of them, however, address usage issues in the newest form of written English--text messaging, that rapidly evolving telegraphic electronic communication medium in which numerals can be words and English words can be vowel-less. That guide will undoubtedly have more in common in spirit and, undoubtedly, in medium with Wiktionary and Wikipedia than with any printed usage guide. James Rettig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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