No writer's or editor's desk is complete without a battered, page-bent copy of the AP Stylebook. However, this not-so-easy-to-use reference of journalistic style is often not up-to-date and leaves reporters and copyeditors unsatisfied. Bill Walsh, copy chief for the Washington Post's business desk, addresses these shortcomings in Lapsing into a Comma. In an opinionated, humorous, and yes, curmudgeonly way, he shows how to apply the basic rules to unique, modern grammar issues. Walsh explains how to deal with perplexing situations such as trendy words, foreign terms, and web speak.
Bill Walsh is the copy chief for the Washington Post's business desk. He also runs a website, www.theslot.com, where he answers questions about style and grammar.
Walsh says it is difficult to "truly understand the reasons behind the rules -- and therefore know when they should be ignored." He knows enough about grammar to be able to give legitimate reasons for ignoring some rules.
This is not your grandmother's grammar. "Web site" vs. "website" and "e-mail" vs. "email" are the subjects of several rants. And Walsh casts his blessing on split infinitives and sentences beginning with conjunctions.
Throughout these grammar and style lessons, Walsh's writing is interesting, fresh, convincing, intelligent and, yes, funny.
This is a book for grammar-geeks and grammar-phobes alike.
Bill makes the subject of grammar not only readable, but fun. Yes, I said "fun"! He argues against some of the "silly taboos" of ancient grammatical rules, but he also makes suggestions about when to go along with the rules even if they don't make sense, "if only to avoid the scorn of the misinformed legions." His examples are often hilarious: "Individuals who need individuals are the luckiest individuals in the world"; "Why does Paul McCartney want me to live on his piano?" (You'll have to look in the book for an explanation.)
No, I'm not on his payroll, but I am in his debt. I've used his advice to help me decide how to rewrite a sentence (I don't always agree with him, but it's a real rarity when I don't) and used his examples to add humor to my day. Once you get the book, don't be surprised if you look up how to use a semicolon and find yourself still reading the book a half hour later, chuckling all the way.