Since first appearing in 1998, Garner's Modern American Usage has established itself as the preeminent guide to the effective use of the English language. Brimming with witty, erudite essays on troublesome words and phrases, this book authoritatively shows how to avoid the countless pitfalls that await unwary writers and speakers whether the issues relate to grammar, punctuation, word choice, or pronunciation.
Now in the third edition, readers will find the "Garner's Language-Change Index," which registers where each disputed usage in modern English falls on a five-stage continuum from nonacceptability (to the language community as a whole) to acceptability, giving the book a consistent standard throughout. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3e is the first usage guide ever to incorporate such a language-change index, and the judgments are based both on Garner's own original research in linguistic corpora and on his analysis of hundreds of earlier studies. Another first in this edition is the panel of critical readers: 120-plus commentators who have helped Garner reassess and update the text, so that every page has been improved.
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Bryan Garner is the award-winning author or editor of more than 20 books. He is a prolific lecturer, having taught more than 2,500 writing workshops since the 1991 founding of his company, LawProse, Inc. His works include Garner on Language and Writing and Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, co-written with Justice Antonin Scalia. Garner has served as editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary since 1995, and he is the author of the grammar-and-usage chapter in the venerable Chicago Manual of Style.
*Starred Review* The “prescriptive/descriptive” debate in usage is alive and well with this newest edition of Garner’s readable work. Featuring more than 10,500 entries (up from 9,000), this edition features several enhancements. They include identifying poor usage with an asterisk before the terms and ranking certain entries with a “Language Change Index,” which measures “how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become.” The scale is from 1 to 5, with 1 being rejected and 5 being fully accepted. For example, coupon being mispronounced “kyoo” instead of “koo” is given stage 4 (“the form is virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts”). More than 2,000 usages are ranked. Extras in the volume include a new essay from Garner (“The Ongoing Struggles of Garlic-Hangers”) as well as the essay that appeared in the previous edition (“Making Peace in the Language Wars,” in which Garner describes himself as being “a kind of descriptive prescriber”) and a concluding 47-page glossary of grammatical terms and a time line of books on usage. The main focus remains Garner’s entries and usage notes. They range from word entries that simply verify the spelling (mayonnaise), to those clarifying two terms (sight, site), to those where he offers his never dull opinions (such as holocaust, which he calls “one of our most hyperbolic words, beloved of jargonmongers and second-rate journalists”). But the longer essay entries on usage, ranging from the half-page Officialese to the 9-page Punctuation, are Garner’s bread and butter. One would be tempted to say that this is clearly one of the best works on the topic, but doing so would be using one of Garner’s weasel words (intensives such as clearly that “actually have the effect of weakening a statement”). Suffice it to say that it is highly recommended for most libraries. --Ken Black
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