cover image A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age

A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age

Emmy J. Favilla. Bloomsbury, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63286-757-5

This witty and informative guide to language and contemporary usage, written by BuzzFeed copy chief Favilla, is a refreshingly modern antidote to the staid style guides of times past. Proceeding from “the fundamental fact that language always evolves,” Favilla describes the rationale by which she created a style guide for her employer that would accommodate the rapid shifts in language and style rampant on the internet (which, as she notes, was until recently capitalized) and in social media. Her subjects are wide-ranging and include proper forms of address and designation in our diverse society and the internet’s effect on the use of punctuation (the usually absent period in tweets becomes an indicator of aggression when used, for example). She sides with descriptivists who believe that “language should be defined by those who use it” against the prescriptivists who believe “there are rules you simply must follow” and supports her recommendations with wisdom gleaned from other style guides and screen captures of email (not “e-mail”) exchanges and web memes. Favilla’s style is light and breezy, which only makes it easier to absorb the serious import of her advice. This is the rare style manual that is as entertaining as it is instructive. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. (Nov.)