Two books about grammar and usage

I like to read and collect books about grammar and usage. These books certainly come in handy when I need to look up a knotty problem, and I am enough of a grammar geek that I enjoy reading about subject-verb agreement and pronoun antecedents. I recently ordered a couple of books that others might find useful.

“Words Into Type” based on work by Margaret E. Skillin, Robert M. Gay and others (Prentice Hall) is a highly influential style manual. The third edition of the book was published in 1974, and that’s the version I have. It is aimed at those who work in publishing. “Words Into Type” is comprehensively indexed, and that’s a wonderful feature. I bought it mainly for the grammar section, which is quite good, but its use of grammar terms such as “declension” and “substantive” might put some readers off. I find it very thorough and straightforward, but it would probably be tough going for someone who wasn’t familiar with grammatical terms.

“Common Errors in English Usage” (William, James & Co.), on the other hand, has something for everyone who cares about using the right words. It is the book version of Professor Paul Brians’ Web site. It is arranged alphabetically, so if you want to look up, say, “hanged/hung,” you can find it easily. In his section on “commas,” Brians points out that his entry is “not a comprehensive guide to the many uses of commas, but a quick tour of the most common errors involving commas.” Brians’ work is very accessible but not dumbed down.

What grammar/usage/style books do you use? I would be interested in hearing which books people find useful, interesting or fun.

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