Woe is I and Words Fail Me

Visit these bright and cheery sites to know which books on English grammar I’m dying to read, but I haven’t gotten hold of yet:



About the author: Patricia O’ Conner

While she was working at the New York Times, Jane Isay, then the publisher of Grosset/Putnam, asked Patricia O’ Conner to write a lighthearted grammar book. Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English was published in 1996 and was a national bestseller; Pat appeared on Oprah to talk about the book. Woe is I is an unusual book: a grammar guide which is highly entertaining. Using such chapter headings as, “Comma Sutra: the Joy of Punctuation,” and “Plurals Before Swine: Blunders With Numbers,” the author teaches the rules of grammar with wit and humor.

Patricia left the Times the following year when Isay, now the Executive Editor of Harcourt Brace’s adult trade division, asked Patricia for a book about writing. Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing was published in October, 1999, to rave reviews from readers and critics alike. Words Fail Me features the same delightful style as Woe is I, and contains invaluable help for writers looking to polish their style. Patricia is known for her ability to take what some would consider a very dull subject — grammar rules, for instance — and make it sound like the most fascinating thing in the world. She is fond of puns, and loves to read most anything — as long as it is well-written, of course. When she’s not writing, you can find her working in her garden, spending time with her husband, or curled up with a good book.

What are Pat’s pet grammar peeves?

First, using “I” when “me” is correct. Here’s an example: “Dad took Freddie and I skiing.” It’s a common mistake, but if you want to be correct, just mentally eliminate the other guy: “Dad took … me skiing.”

Second, confusing “its” and “your” and “whose” (possessives) with “it’s” and “you’re” and “who’s” (contractions). Here the apostrophes stand in for missing letters, so if the word is short for “it is,” go for “it’s; if the word is short for “you are,” go for “you’re”; if the word is short for “who is,” go for “who’s.”

Third — and this isn’t actually a grammar problem — I cringe when I hear or read non-words like “irregardless.” And I shiver when I come across bloated, empty language, as in “The parameters of his fiscal dynamic were negatively impacted by his involuntary separation.” In other words, “He was broke after he was fired.”

Pat’s favourite novelists:

There are so many wonderful novelists that it’s hard to choose. I admire all the big guns, of course: Tolstoy, Flaubert, Austen, Trollope, George Eliot, Henry James, Mark Twain, Proust. The modern novelists I like best are William Trevor, Saul Bellow, Muriel Spark, Zora Neale Hurston, Dawn Powell, P.G. Wodehouse, Barbara Pym, Kingsley Amis, E.F. Benson, Graham Greene, Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anthony Powell. Great storytellers, every one.

Source: http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/dec99/oconner.htm

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