Book Report: Under the Grammar Hammer by Douglas Cazort (1997)

I bought this book for $5.98 at the Barnes and Noble in Ladue around the turn of the year. You know how it goes; you’ve got a $25 gift card, so you try to stretch it on the bargain books and end up with $53 in a dozen books on the to-read shelves.

I picked this book because its title implies a certain ruthlessness which, as a reputed grammarian, I should appreciate. However, it just enumerates 25 common, obvious, and high-risk grammar errors and how to avoid them. I read the lists, read the supplemental material, scanned the cartoons, and mostly ignored the grammar examples. The rules I break I do so on my own account, not because I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s a thin little book, a read for one sitting much like Strunk and White, but it doesn’t have the depth of the masterwork. Also, it ends with an afterword that speaks of removing some of the rules of grammar, which sort of subverts the point of the book. I won’t disagree with the afterword, as I have my reasons as a writer for sometimes not putting in commas where they’re needed or sometimes leaving them outside of the quotation marks around the titles of short fiction and whatnot (see also my predilection for the European style here, as my beautiful grammarian wife has already noted).

Still, it’s a worthwhile read if you’re a mere mortal writer (like most of you) and even worthwhile as a reminder of your superiority (like some of us). Worth $6? Depends upon what sort of down payment you need upon your grammatical dominance.

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