English grammar

Because an understanding of the basics of English grammar is essential if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, here is a selection of books on English grammar which I either own or have come across on the internet or in book shops. You can buy them using the Amazon links at the end of this post.

English grammar can be a surprisingly contentious issue particularly between those who believe that rules are rules and that they should never change and those who believe that, as a living language, English grammar rules should adapt and change according to what people are actually using in their everyday lives. I leave it to you to decide which camp you are in or whether you are somewhere in the middle.

My recommendations for books on English grammar

In his book Accidence will happen: The non-pedantic guide to English usage, Oliver Kamm demonstrates that although the pedants tell us we require rules in English grammar, “many of the purist prohibitions are bogus and can be cheerfully disregarded”. James Shapiro in his review says this is “the most intelligent and entertaining book about the English language I have ever read… Pedants are going to hate this book – and quietly take its lessons to heart”.

The briefest English grammar and punctuation guide ever! by Ruth Colman is described as a concise and
un-intimidating guide to English grammar. It covers the basics of English grammar and clearly and simply explains how language works and functions.

Grammar for Grown-Ups by Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton “is an accessible, light-hearted and straightforward guide to good English in the 21st century”. It is aimed at “people who have forgotten the English grammar they were taught at school or for those who weren’t taught it in the first place”.

Grammar know your shit OR know you’re shit by Joanne Adams. This book is described as a “fun yet informative book which offers bite-sized tips and advice on everything you need to know about grammar – including common misspellings, how to use punctuation correctly and applying the right tense – and will turn you from a logophobe to a grammarphile in no time!”

As an intelligence officer in the British Intelligence Corps, Craig Shrives “was one of the guys compiling, summarising and offering assessments for the generals on all the stuff spinning around”. As a result of his experience of having to write in a “succinct and grammatically sound” manner, Craig Shrives set up a grammar website and also wrote his book Grammar Rules Writing With Military Precision. Both his website and book provide “a comprehensive but light-hearted and easily digestible grammar reference guide”.

Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by the American grammar guru Patricia T. O’Conner is the only book in this selection of my recommended English grammar guides which I don’t have in my own collection. However, when I was doing a bit of extra research for this blog I came across it and felt I should include it. On the Grammarphobia website a review of Patricia T. O’Conner’s book says “Whether you’re intimidated by possessives, baffled by pronouns, or simply have no idea what a gerund is, Woe Is I can bail you out. Thanks to this book, your days as a grammarphobe are over”.

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English grammar – a selection of books for grammarphobes
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