We’ve compiled a list of the most helpful, entertaining, and dependable grammar books, according to our fantastic proofreading team at ProofreadNOW.com, Inc. These titles run the gamut for audiences: from newbies to advanced-degreed writers, from native speakers to ESL learners, from people who write for a living to people who speak for a living, from people who hate grammar to grammarians who would have tea with a single semicolon for company.
Feel free to check out the product pages we’ve linked to as well as the reader reviews, but don’t hesitate to buy these from another source, especially a secondhand store.
Our Top-10 Grammar Books
1. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer
Commentary: I’ll be honest. This is the only grammar book I’ve ever read that was a page-turner. I kept thinking “How is he doing this? How did he make this so delightful to read?” Even if I somehow knew everything in the book beforehand (and I sure as heck didn’t), it would still have been worth reading. Look—I didn’t even try to hide my bias; I put this one at the top of the list. No regrets.
2. A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers
Commentary: Is the title dry? Yes. However, one Amazon reviewer calls this book “invaluable” and “remarkably comprehensive and user-friendly.” If you’re in academia or being called upon to write a ton of academic papers for persnickety professors, have a gander.
3. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, Fourth Edition by Amy Eisohn and Marilyn Schwartz
Commentary: This book has proven indispensable for several of our ProofreadNOW.com proofreaders, so we heartily recommend it to anyone else with a passion for (or profession in) perfect grammar.
4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Commentary: This is a mainstay that likely needs no introduction to the grammar-initiated. But I have to admit one matter of irrelevance: I first thought William’s last name was “Stunk.” Consider pairing this winner with the response title Adios, Strunk and White: A Handbook for the New Academic Essay, Sixth Edition by Gary and Glynis Hoffman. Who can resist grammar and snark?
Commentary: I have a confession. The delicious thoroughness, ideal font, sheer heft (over 1,100 pages), and bright-orange binding (I’m a dust-jacket rebel) wooed me. Beware the seductive power and smarts of this chunky beauty. Worth its weight in commas, I wager.
6. The Little Seagull Handbook, Fourth Edition by Richard Bullock, Michal Brody, and Francine Weinberg
Commentary: If you’re a new university student, you’re the target audience for this handy-dandy resource. In case you need more evidence, one “helpful” review mentioned that the “book is in good condition. It shipped to my house fast.” However, I’m sorry to report that you won’t learn a darn thing about seagulls from this handbook.
7. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty
Commentary: I view this as a pocket or field guide for people who are less enthused about grammar and/or incredibly busy but in want of a worthwhile laymen’s education on the topic.
Commentary: Who could resist that title or an author named “Gyles Brandreth”? Not me. Probably not you either. This self-proclaimed “brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more” has rave Amazon reviews, some claiming it’s “a wonderful tonic” and “my favorite book.” (I don’t think they’re being sarcastic.)
9. The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment by Susan Thurman and Larry Shea
Commentary: I’ll be frank. This is a pretty high claim, maybe even arrogant (or just slick marketing). It’s described as a resource to help readers produce writing that is “clear, concise, and grammatically excellent.” While one review simply reads “Ok,” another claims “This is the first grammar book that I actually read all the way through.” As far as living up to the title, another reviewer concedes: “This isn’t the only grammar book you’ll ever need, but it’s a very good one to keep in your collection.” Fair enough.
10. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: An Easy-to-Use Guide with Clear Rules, Real-World Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes, 12th Edition by Lester Kaufman and Jane Straus
Commentary: If the lengthy title wasn’t enough to reel you in (we all want clarity and relevant knowledge, right?), this review might goad you into hitting the “buy” button: “It is definitely comprehensive. If only I could make heads or tails of most of what is being said.” I cackled. That said, I recommend this as a resource for writers and speakers who are already familiar with the basics but who want to hone their skills to a fine point.
What are your favorite grammar-related books? Share the goodies. Let us know in the comments.
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