“Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer

EnglishLooking to crack open a good grammar book? Then I am happy to recommend Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, which warmed the cockles of this grammar geek’s heart. My husband was a little concerned (read: irritated) that I laughed aloud, with a literal LOL, in so many places, but indeed, I did—and over a grammar book.

I’m sure it helps that I commit some editing myself on occasion, but even if I did not, I would have great admiration for the role of those like Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House. I say he’s doing the Lord’s work by making the world a better, more readable place. I happen to like and even enjoy grammar rules, but I don’t believe fussy editor types are the only ones who will enjoy this book. Not by a long shot. Do you know the word “faffing,” for instance? I didn’t, but his use of “faffing about” made me look it up, and now I’m a fan.

Dreyer shares my fondness for the serial comma, and he states his case rather simply: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.” (He says “series,” I say “serial.” To-may-to, to-mah-to.)

His writing is irreverent and occasionally self-deprecating, and how lovely it was to read that even a man in his position doesn’t quite know what all these blessed grammar things are called. “Even now,” he writes, “I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what a nominative absolute is, I think that the word ‘genitive’ sounds vaguely smutty, and I certainly don’t know, or care to know, how to diagram a sentence. I hope I’m not shocking you.”

And if I’m ever asked to play grammar-themed trivia one day—and my goodness, I hope I am—I will know that  the capital “G” in LaGuardia is a “medial capital.”

Many of the rules (and a few preferences) he discusses are simply things I’ve already learned and internalized from The Chicago Manual of Style, but Dreyer sure makes them fun to read and consider. I simply can’t think of a writer or editor who wouldn’t benefit from reading this charming and helpful book.

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Character Development Journal from Sweet Harmony Press

IMG_6769If you’re going to build something, you need to have the right tools. Right? As a writer, I can think of lots of tools that I find indispensable: a computer, a word-processing program (or two), pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, style guides, grammar books. And to that list, I am now happy to add the Character Development Journal from Sweet Harmony Press.

I received mine as a Christmas gift from a thoughtful girlfriend, and I absolutely love the simplicity of this journal. It’s the same two-page spread repeated about fifty-something times (and I don’t imagine they’d appreciate me sharing a photo of it since then you might not want the journal). It lets you list things like the character’s name and nickname, age, other physical characteristics, jobs, beliefs, people the character loves and hates, pets, and much more. There’s even a bulleted list of dozens of character traits for you to check off, ranging from A (“accountable”) to Z (“zealous”), and I’m looking forward to going deeper with the characters in my first novel as I continue to work on book two in the series.

I’d read before that an author needs to keep a “character Bible,” but I hardly knew where to start other than jotting down a few disjointed lists in one of my many brainstorming journals. As I continue to build an imaginary world for my characters, I now have a handy journal that will (hopefully!) help me create characters that, as the book cover says, “readers will love.”

Another reason to love John Crist …

As if we needed another reason to love comedian John Crist, his recent video about “Guy who corrects other peoples (sic) grammer (sic) on the internet” cracks me up! And I must confess that while I do *mentally* correct other people’s grammar and spelling all the time, I try to refrain from correcting them publicly unless someone has asked me and/or paid me to do so!

And yes, I do think he has made these mistakes on purpose, although they still make me a little twitchy even if they’re all in fun.

Grammar: Why it’s Greek to me

img_6502 (1)A sweet New Year’s revelation: my spiritual studies and my grammar studies can overlap. At the end of the year, I was taking stock of my daily Bible-reading habit and realized it left me wanting … more. Yes, I read through the Bible again in 2018, but I wasn’t sure I’d gotten as much out of the reading as I would have liked. Then I remembered that a friend had passed along a Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible she no longer wanted. What if I tried reading that during my morning devotions? Couldn’t hurt, might help, I decided.

I also started reading with a notebook at hand to write down observations about the scriptures I read each morning. So far, my Bible-reading plan has me in Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the new, and I have yet to finish a day’s reading without jotting down several new insights I’ve found. I can’t help thinking that this Hebrew-Greek Bible has something to do with these new insights.

This week, I found myself looking up the word “scribes” in the book’s concordance of Greek words. Imagine how it delighted my grammar-geek heart to learn that the Greek word was “grammateus.” The definition wasn’t especially profound (a writer, a scribe), but I did learn that the word could also mean “town clerk,” which was news to me.

The other big discovery? This Bible has a whole page of verb tenses that I had never even heard of. I was ridiculously happy when I found that, and I wonder how much time I’ll spend this year learning about things like the “aorist subjunctive active” (be still my heart!).

Of course, no matter how many Bibles I read and study from, I’ll be most happy if, at some point this year, I make some progress with the Christian basics, verses like Luke 6:31, and “do unto others as I would have them do unto me.” One day, I hope I’ll pass along a Bible to someone that will make them as happy as this one has made me!