When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse

Ben Yagoda, Author . Broadway $21.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7679-2077-3

Yagoda (The Sound on the Page ) isn't trying to reinvent the style guide, just offering his personal tour of some of the English language's idiosyncrasies. Using the parts of speech as signposts, he charts an amiable path between those critics for whom any alterations to established grammar are hateful and those who believe whatever people use in speech is by default acceptable. Where many writing instructors rail against the use of adverbs, for example, he points out that they can be quite useful for conveying subtle relationships ordinary verbs can't describe. Some of this territory is familiar—Yagoda even boils down the debate over "hopefully" to outline form—but every chapter has gems tucked inside, like the section in pronouns on the "third-person athletic," the voice celebrity ballplayers use to refer to themselves in interviews. And he's definitely in love with his one-liners, such as the quip that the only acceptable use of "really" is "in imitations of Katharine Hepburn, Ed Sullivan and Elmer Fudd." Readers won't toss their copies of Strunk & White off the shelf, but Yagoda's witty grammar will rest comfortably next to the masters. (Feb. 13)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-7679-2078-0
Open Ebook - 111 pages - 978-0-7679-2931-8
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