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A Grammar Book for You and I — Oops, Me!, C. Edward Good, Capital Books, Inc. 2002, 430 pp., $17.95

Oops, Me starts with fundamentals, proceeds through many finer points of good style, and advises how to avoid common mistakes. Because it covers the English language so comprehensively, the book could help anyone, from a high school student to a professional in search of a more polished, readable style.

Author C. Edward Good has plenty of experience with this second group: he has taught thousands of lawyers, executives, scientists and other professionals in his writing seminars. Good accuses all these professions of "nouniness," as well as other stylistic problems that confuse the meaning and bore the reader. The book offers practical advice on fixing these problems and communicating more clearly, both in writing and in speech.

Good himself uses an unpretentious, interesting writing style. He makes fun of the most egregious grammatical abuses we hear every day: "Parents might try the exercise out on their children. Bribe them. Put a $10 bill on the breakfast table and challenge them to make it through a second helping of waffles without using the tobelike verb and without misusing the like word. Up it to $100. Your money's safe."

He also uses memorable stories and examples throughout the book. On the subject of ending a sentence with a preposition, Good tells of a grammatically anxious civil servant who labored to avoid doing so in the draft of a government document. "This is nonsense up with which I will not put it," wrote Winston Churchill irritably across his subordinate's draft.

The chapter titles on common mistakes playfully commit the mistakes they correct: "There's lots of these subject-verb disagreements"; "When writing, your participle might dangle"; and the memorable, "Like, I'm like gonna like learn how to like talk."

The indexing is well done and makes the book a useful reference. Reference highlights include the list of ways to avoid writing he/she or him/her; the sections on noun absolutes, fused participles, and avoiding "nouniness"; and the list of compound prepositions and how to replace them. (Instead of in the immediate vicinity of, just say near. Instead of at this point in time, just say now.) Those who seek a comprehensive summary of a missed or forgotten English Composition course will want to read the book all the way through.

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