Friday, June 1, 2012

Books on Writing

I think most writers have books on writing. I don't know about you, but I seem to accumulate them--and then they reproduce. I think I have six or seven copies of Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. Yeah. 

I'd like to share a pair of books that I love. They aren't on writing craft, per se, but they are very useful. They are *whispers, lest I scare you away* grammar books.

How many different grammar books do you have? I likely have about six, but I usually refer to this set:

The Transitive Vampire (A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed)  and The Well-Tempered Sentence (A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed). Both books are by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and both are in new editions on Amazon.

These books are not only useful--they are a riot to read (and there are awesome illustrations...). A sample from the introduction (from Transitive Vampire) should give you an example of the cheekiness:

This is a dangerous game I'm playing, smuggling the injunctions of grammar into your cognizance through a menage of revolving lunatics kidnapped into this book.  Their stories are digressions toward understanding, a pantomime of raucous intentions in the linguistic labyrinth. By following them through this rough and twisting terrain you will be beguiled into compliance with the rules, however confounding those rules may appear to be...

Both books illustrate the rules of grammar in absurd sentences that really do illuminate the actual grammar. No dull stuff. For example, here are a couple of examples for "nouns in plural form but with singular intentions--that may take plural verbs":
The pliers were used to open her mouth, which was refusing to speak.
The scissors had made a mess of the heavens' geometry, and were preparing to swoop down on Earth. 
The books aren't too long--and they are great for reference and for a few laughs. I highly recommend them to anyone who writes or reads fantasy or paranormal--or anyone who just likes a different kind of grammar book.

In the coming months, I'll occasionally share some more of the books I have used over the years while teaching fiction writing.

I'd love to hear what recommendations any of you have for grammar books, especially. How do you resolve grammar questions? (And please don't say you leave it for your



  1. These sound like fun books, Kerry. I'll have to check them out.

  2. Thank you for the recommendations! I have been meaning to review some grammar books on my book blog but I haven't found one I really, really like. I will have to check these out.