Your Own Words: The Bestselling Author of Word Court Explains How to Decipher Decipher the Dictionary, Master the Usage Manual, and Be Your Own Language Expert

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9781582432823: Your Own Words: The Bestselling Author of Word Court Explains How to Decipher Decipher the Dictionary, Master the Usage Manual, and Be Your Own Language Expert

If you have a language question, where do you go for the answer? How do you keep proper syntax from sounding stiff, and, on the other hand, how do you keep conversational language from being embarrassingly incorrect? Barbara Wallraff, the author of The Atlantic Monthly's Word Court column, offers answers to these crucial questions. On one level, Your Own Words is a guide to using and understanding language references-dictionaries, thesauruses, stylebooks, usage guides, grammars, writing guides, and the Internet-with emphasis on how the different kinds of resources can help you answer different kinds of questions. On a deeper level, however, Your Own Words is about how to make good form your own. It helps you turn these various, often contradictory references into the tools that every experienced and confident user of language needs.In the world of language commentary, Barbara Wallraff offers an unequaled combination of authority, accessibility, and popularity. Her book shows you how to develop a genuine style that's both correct and personal-a style that expresses you at your best. Illuminated throughout with anecdotes and selections from the Word Court columns, Your Own Words does what very few books on usage even attempt: It shows every reader-amateur, professional, student, or graduate -how to think about what goes into good style.I think her judgment is flawless. I never disagree with her. -Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

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From the Back Cover:

I write for a living, but my spelling, my grammar, and my sense of whether there should be a comma before the conjunction at the end of this series are sketchy. Thus Barbara Wallraff is invaluable. She also knows why invaluable means ‘priceless' when if I were writing dictionaries, both words would mean ‘free.' Plus she understands the subjunctive mood. --P.J. O'Rourke, author of Give War a Chance and Eat the Rich

Anyone who cares passionately about writing should read this book. Words matter, and there's no expert on their proper usage more enlightening or more charming than Barbara Wallraff. --Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness

Barbara Wallraff is my language and grammar guru; she ought to be yours, too. --Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent and Pitching My Tent

If you like thoroughgoing good sense and a light touch backed up with solid scholarship, you'll relish Barbara Wallraff's approach to language. She's a virtuoso. And in these pages she'll teach you how to achieve your own brand of virtuosity. --Bryan A. Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage

Your Own Words is Barbara Wallraff's Universal Guide to (Almost) Everything Verbal. It tells you how to look things up, which authorities to put your trust in, where to find what you need to know, and how to put into words what you have to say with a minimum of confusion. Her book is useful, entertaining, and full of surprises. --Justin Kaplan, editor of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain

At last, the secret handshake revealed! Clever, tart and even a bit sly, Barbara Wallraff is the ideal guide for those who wish to say exactly what they mean. --Christina Schwarz, author of Drowning Ruth

Barbara Wallraff has given us a bestiary of English usage. Your Own Words suggests Edward Gorey in type, revealing the ghastly tinies and grisly goings-on that our language fears are made of. Wallraff reminds us that language itself is exceedingly, delightfully peculiar, and getting more so. --Glenn Mott, Managing Editor, King Features Syndicate

Barbara Wallraff has long been a great source of answers. In Your Own Words, she provides a compelling look at the answers behind the answers. --Bill Walsh, author of The Elephants of Style and Lapsing Into a Comma

Clearly, the World Wide Web has spawned a linguistic tour de force. The powerful insights and pragmatic approach of Your Own Words make it the perfect guide to this new networked world. --Dr. Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO, Google Inc.

With courtesy, patience, and humor, Wallraff provides sensible answers to bothersome questions, never disrespecting (see page 16--thanks for that one!) her questioners. --Margaret Mahan, former managing editor, University of Chicago Press

About the Author:

For the past nine years, Barbara Wallraff has been the Word Court columnist on the back page of The Atlantic Monthly; last year, she began to write an additional weekly newspaper version of Word Court for King Features Syndicate. Wallraff is also editor-in-chief of the bimonthly newsletter Copy Editor: Language News for the Publishing Profession, for which she writes a highly popular Ask Copy Editor column. Wallraff's previous book, Word Court, was a national bestseller. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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