March 19 , 2019

Dreyer's English

Every so often there comes a book that you just can't put down. You find yourself laughing and learning and very soon sharing with your spouse or friends. Often such a book is on a subject that you love. Rarely is it on a subject you abhor - like punctuation and grammar.
Yes, I admit, I am a book publisher who did better in math than English on the SATs. While my high school writing teacher (and baseball coach) enjoyed my work and had me read it to the class, I was never a lover of the subject. Mr. Haag, whom we nicknamed "The Tin Man" for his lack of a pumping muscle inside his ribcage, made 9th grade English a chore. Admittedly, I did receive A's in his class, but they were brutal to achieve. Suffice to say, despite my advanced degree in business, mastery of the written word was not envisioned in my future. When I was running a software consulting firm in the '90s I never imagined I'd be running a book publishing company two decades later, let alone enjoying editing other people's work, let alone writing my own.
Alas, a good friend told me about this little book by the head of copy editing at Random House -- Benjamin Dreyer -- entitled Dreyer's English. In my opinion, it is an instant classic. It is both humorous and educational. It is a book in which the footnotes are just as interesting and funny as the main text, similar to the subscripts at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. No, a moose did not bite Benjamin's sister. But you do get a silly anecdote about a time an author left out an absolutely necessary serial comma and another about the "actual" difference between grey and gray. One reviewer described it as "pithy." I humbly agree. It is pithy as pithy can be.
I highly recommend this book to our authors and employees alike -- as well to my adult children, coworkers, and clients. This is a writing guide that educates and entertains. If only Haag had been like Dreyer, God rest his soul (Haag's).