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Grammatically Correct, 2nd Edition

The essential guide to spelling, style, usage, grammar, and punctuation.  
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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.

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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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