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The Elephants of Style
A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English

Walsh, Bill
Publisher:  McGraw-Hill
Year Published:  2004  
Pages:  238pp   Price:  $21.95   ISBN:  0-07-142268-4

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Bill Walsh is the copy chief for national news at the Washington Post, and the creator of, a popular Web site for copyeditors. This book, his second on this theme, is opinionated commentary on American English in the computer age. The first was Lapsing Into A Comma. In that earlier book, he had a chapter "Curmudgeon's Stylebook", an alphabetical guide to interesting but often obscure questions of usage and miscellaneous facts. He continues with that stylebook in his second book. Topics here include his pseudo-Luddite takes on spelling, capitalization, abbreviations, parts of speech, possessives and plurals, numbers, and punctuation. This is the real nitty-gritty stuff, not often taught in journalism schools. There are separate sections that deal with plagiarism and fabrication. He concludes with a bibliography of style and usage books, plus an index.

Audience or interest level: copy editors.

Some interesting facts: "Some habits of spoken English do not translate well to the written word. The superfluous "hand" in phrases like "upper left-hand corner" is one of them. People who need to refer to their hands to tell right from left don't tend to read much".

What I don't like about this resource: material does tend to be scattered and a little too cutesy.

What I do like about this resource: more practical than the publisher admits. A really good read, enjoyable too.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 94.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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