Grammatically Correct, 2nd Edition

Grammatically Correct, 2nd Edition
The Essential Guide to Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar, and Punctuation

by Anne Stilman
Writer’s Digest Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58297-6167
$19.99, paperback, 352 pages

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Read an Excerpt
In this excerpt from Grammatically Correct, author/grammar expert Anne Stiman discusses correct usage for that ever troublesome punctuation mark: the semicolon.

About the Book


How does good writing stand out?  If its purpose is to convey facts, findings, or instructions, it need be read only once for its content to be clear. If its purpose is to entertain or to provoke thought, it makes readers want to come back for more.

Expanded and updated, this guide covers four essential aspects of good writing:

•    Individual words—spelling variations,  hyphenation,  frequently confused homonyms, frequently misused words and phrases, irregular plurals and negatives, and uses of capitalization and type style to add special meanings

•    Punctuation—the role of each mark in achieving clarity and affecting tone, and demonstration of how misuses can lead to ambiguity

•    Syntax and structure—agreement of subject and verb, parallel construction, modifiers, tenses, pronouns, active versus passive voice, and more

•    Style—advice on the less hard-and-fast areas of clarity and tone, including conciseness, simplification, reading level, jargon, and subtlety

Filled with self-test exercises and whimsical literary quotations, Grammatically Correct steers clear of academic stuffiness, focusing instead on practical strategies and intuitive explanations. Discussions are designed to get to the heart of a concept and provide a sufficient sense of when and how to use it, along with examples that show what ambiguities or misinterpretations might result if the rules are not followed. In cases where there is more than one acceptable way to do something, the approach is not to prescribe one over another but simply to describe the options.

Readers of this indispensable guide will never break the rules of language again—unintentionally.

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Building Blocks: Word by Word
Spelling Issues   
Frequently Misspelled Words   
Spelling Variations   
Frequently Confused Homonyms   
Vocabulary Quirks and Challenges   
Frequently Misused Words   
Plural Formations   
Negative Formations   
Using Type Style for Effect   
Uses of Capitalization   
Uses of Italic Type   
Uses of Boldface Type   

Part 2: Punctuation

Basic Sentence Structure   
Subject and Predicate   
Independent and Dependent Clauses   
Sentence Fragments   
Separating the Main Elements of a Sentence   
Separating Elements in a Series   
Setting Off Dialogue and Quotations   
Indicating Omitted Words   
Other Uses of the Comma   
Separating Elements  
Linking Elements   
Style Conventions   
Introducing What Follows   
Adding Emphasis   
Other Uses of the Colon   
Colon or Semicolon?   
Style Conventions  
Ending a Sentence   
Indicating Abbreviations   
Other Uses of the Period   
Question Mark   
Indicating Queries   
Indicating Rhetorical Questions   
Indicating Requests   
Indicating Uncertainty   
Style Conventions  
Exclamation Point   
Indicating Importance or Emotion   
Indicating Rhetorical Questions   
Capturing Attention   
Cautions About the Exclamation Point   
Style Conventions   
Indicating Word Breaks   
Linking the Parts of a Compound Adjective   
Acting As a Stand-In for a Repeated Word   
Indicating Intonations or Pronunciations   
Indicating “And” or “Or” Relationships   
Indicating Other Relationships   
Separating Lines of Poetry   
Working in Digressions   
Making Complex Text Easier to Follow   
Setting Off Details   
Style Conventions   
En Dash   
Linking Ranges   
Linking Words   
Style Conventions   
Em Dash   
Marking Off An Important Point Or A Digression   
Marking A Break In Structure Or Turn In Content   
Indicating Interrupted Or Scattered Speech   
Style Conventions   
2-Em and 3-Em Dashes   
2-Em Dash   
3-Em Dash   
Style Conventions   
Identifying Changes to Quoted Material   
Enclosing Digressions Within Parentheses   
Other Uses of Brackets   
Style Conventions   
Quotation Marks   
Setting Off Dialogue   
Setting Off Citations   
Indicating Significance   
Setting Off Titles   
Style Conventions   
Indicating Omissions   
Indicating Hesitant or Trailing Speech   
Imparting Significance   
Style Conventions   
Indicating Omissions   
Indicating Possessives   
Indicating Plurals   

Part 3: Structure and Syntax
Agreement Between Subject and Verb   
The Subject, the Whole Subject, and Nothing But the Subject   
Forest or Trees?   
Parallel Structure   
Positioning of Modifiers   
Dangling Modifiers   
Misplaced Modifiers   
Squinting Modifiers   
Tense and Mood   
Present Tenses   
Past Tenses   
Future Tenses   
Determining the Right Pronoun   
Referring to the Right Antecedent   
Agreement Between Pronoun and Antecedent  
Choosing a Pronoun   
Active Versus Passive Voice   
Uses of the Active Voice   
Uses of the Passive Voice  
Grammar Grab-bag: Miscellaneous Problem Areas   
Adverb-Adjective Distinction   
Intransitive and Transitive Verbs  
Splitting Infinitives   
Ending with a Preposition
Part 4: Style
Sentence Breaks   
Sentence Order   
Reading Level   
Sentence Length   
Word Choices   
Word Variation   
Effective Repetition   
Avoidance of Bias   
Accents and Speech Patterns   
When Less is More: The Art of Subtlety   
Suggestions for Self-Improvement   

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