Vaughn Hardacker here: Are you in a quandary trying to find a gift for the writer in your life? Have you given thought to a style manual? When I became serious about writing I was told that two books were essential to learning the craft : The Chicago Manual of Style ($52.99 on Amazon) and Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary ($10.68 on Amazon). I believe there is a more apropos manual of style.
Several months ago a member of my weekly writer group spoke about a book titled Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style ($13.19 on Amazon). Benjamin Dreyer (vice-president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House) has written a style manual that reads like your favorite novel. It is authoritative as well as amusing. In the past when I had a question about style, I would get my CMS and look up the item of interest. I have read Dreyer’s English cover-to-cover and enjoyed it. The material is written in such a manner that I was entertained as
well as educated. It was reminiscent of that one professor who created a learning environment that made me want to attend every class he/she taught.
Dreyer offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and non-rules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive. He will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling–though he notes: “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”
This book would be invaluable to anyone who wants to build their writing skills and should be mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping prose. I believe that the book’s greatest strength is that, unlike most style manuals, it was not written by the English faculty of a university–who most likely have never actually written a novel–but rather by someone who has actually worked in the publishing industry.