Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A well-chosen book title

Since I recently devoted a week to bad books, it's  nice to talk about a good one for a change.

I am frequently surprised and aghast to hear educated people ranging from Barack Obama to Sean Hannity say “gunna,” shoulda,” “woulda” and “coulda.” George W. Bush was quoted in Time spewing out “was like” instead of “said”— in the manner of a Generation-Y-er. Letters to editors, blogs and books demonstrate a similar degeneration of the typed word. It sometimes seems like English teachers all retired around 1970.

Arlene Miller is an English teacher, and previously worked as a newspaper reporter, technical writer and book editor. She has a lot to teach the semi-literates who speak and write on our planet.

Arlene’s book, The Best Little Grammar Book Ever! may actually be the best little grammar book ever. Packed into a compact 120 pages, the book provides information, answers and advice that will be valuable to every writer. It belongs on your desk.

You can check it when you have a question, or just stick a finger between two random pages when you have a minute or two of spare time. I guarantee that you’ll find something useful, and may avoid looking stupid or amateurish.

Arlene taught me to use quote marks around short things like song titles, to italicize big things like book titles, and which words to capitalize in book titles. She also discusses “concrete nouns” and the “predicate nominative”—which I assumed had become extinct in the Neanderthal era.

I don't think Arlene will mind if I take some of "her" space for a tip from my own high school sophomore-year English teacher. Emma Ruff taught our class: “You lie sometimes or someplace, but you lay something or someone.” I’ve remembered that since 1961. Teenagers pay attention to sex.


  1. English teacher or teacher of English :)

  2. If math teacher and history teacher are OK, so is English teacher.

    The only problem is if the teacher is really from England and teaches Latin or Phys Ed.