Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dr. Rozakis on Grammar

It seems to be almost a truism about books on Grammar and English that they are not very inspiring reads. I guess that many of these books are churned out by failed novelists or essayists who can find no other outlet for their obvious love of language.

So what about this tome by Dr. Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.d? Well, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar & Style, 2nd Ed (2003 – note that there is a newer edition) is better than many but it's safely ensconced within the above category. Still there are a couple of major faults.

Firstly there are the jokes, if you can call them jokes. The humour is childish and I was fed up with it after only a few pages. She could never be a comedian or write a comedy script. Embarrassing is the word that springs to mind. And I got fed up with the same joke being repeated over and over again. What is it with guides like this. Why do publishes think that adding some lame jokes to a text book makes it consumer friendly?

Secondly the writing is not wildly exciting. It's sort of OK, just a bit dull. It's not that good an example for the reader. Worst of all, every couple of pages, there are some klutzy sentences. Not terrible, just a bit off. And I'm not talking about those intended to demonstrate how you can get grammar all wrong. They are unintended examples of poor English style. I'm sure they are grammatically correct, they are just embarrassing – see, that word crops up again.

So what about the content? After all that is supposed to be what the book is about. Here we are on safer ground and it's this that kept me reading until the end. Most of the advice is reasonable if pretty conservative. There's little you can argue with here and all the usual stuff is included. What more can I say?

The weakest area was towards the end with the advice of writing style. Here I found the examples a little superficial. For example Rozakis often mentions the need for using non-sexist language. Of course I totally agree with this aim. It's just I didn't find much in the way of practical help in avoiding the problem – other than don't do it, obviously correct but ultimately unhelpful.

In the end this is a do-as-I-say and not a do-as-I-do book. It's worth reading for that reason and following the advise it contains. However, I'm still looking for a really inspiring book on grammar.

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