The New Yorker’s Fall Reading List; Cioffi’s “One Day in the Life of the English Language”

Unsure of what to add to your Fall Reading List? Refer to New Yorker‘s Mary Norris.

One Day in the Life jacketMary “comma queen” Norris, contributor and proofreader for the New Yorker,  likes to keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest books about English grammar, language and writing. In a recent New Yorker piece, “What We’re Reading this Fall”, Norris writes, “People might expect that, as a copy editor, I’d be absorbed in the new usage manual by Frank L. Cioffi, ‘One Day in the Life of the English Language,’… They wouldn’t be that far off.”

While she continues to admit her current absorption in a fiction work about a proofreader, One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook, by Frank L. Cioffi, is certainly on her mind and surely listed on her Fall Reading List.

Using real-life examples to debunk myths of digital-age English and emphasize the inevitable evolution of the English language, this one-of-a-kind anti-handbook handbook convinces and motivates readers to use correct and effective grammar in their day-to-day lives.

Join Norris by adding One Day in the Life of the English Language to your own Fall Reading List and discover the significance of grammar in today’s world and why the ways of words matter.

Frank L. Cioffi is professor of English at Baruch College, City University of New York, and has taught writing at Princeton and Indiana Universities and at Bard and Scripps Colleges. He is the author of The Imaginative Argument: A Practical Manifesto for Writers (Princeton), among other books.

Washington Post highlights summer reading for students

Soon, school will be out for summer, but here at PUP, our “to read” lists keep growing. The Washington Post recently highlighted a unique summer reading list — one compiled by college admissions officers and counselors.

Every year, Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire, asks college admissions deans and high school counselors for book recommendations. These selections include books for students, parents, and general book lovers. This year, Frank Cioffi’s One Day in the Life of the English Language makes the list.

Barndard explains the inspiration behind this take on summer reading recommendations:

At The Derryfield School, summer reading has an interesting twist that would have been much more palatable for me as a high school student. Every faculty member chooses a favorite book and students can pick a title from this diverse list. Some students choose books based on their most adored teacher and some based on the brief summary provided. Then there are likely students (like I would have done) who choose the shortest book on the list regardless of topic. During the first week of school, faculty members gather with students who read their recommendation for an engaging discussion.

Inspired by this practice, I solicited summer reading recommendations from colleagues in college counseling and admission from high schools and colleges across the nation.

You can view the entire summer reading list here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

One Day in the Life of the English Language was recommended for students by Jeffrey Durso-Finley, director of college counseling at the Lawrenceville School (NJ). Read more about this anti-handbook below, and check out the introduction for yourself.

Cioffi jacket
Generations of student writers have been subjected to usage handbooks that proclaim, “This is the correct form. Learn it”—books that lay out a grammar, but don’t inspire students to use it. By contrast, this antihandbook handbook, presenting some three hundred sentences drawn from the printed works of a single, typical day in the life of the language—December 29, 2008—tries to persuade readers that good grammar and usage matter.

Using real-world sentences rather than invented ones, One Day in the Life of the English Language gives students the motivation to apply grammatical principles correctly and efficiently. Frank Cioffi argues that proper form undergirds effective communication and ultimately even makes society work more smoothly, while nonstandard English often marginalizes or stigmatizes a writer. He emphasizes the evolving nature of English usage and debunks some cherished but flawed grammar precepts. Is it acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? It is. Can you start a sentence with a conjunction? You can. OK to split an infinitive? No problem.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate National Grammar Day with Frank Cioffi’s One Day in the Life of the English Language

Grammar: It’s the difference between knowing your stuff and knowing you’re stuff. Some even say it saves lives (see below). If you haven’t noticed, today is National Grammar Day (March 4), so here at Princeton University Press we are celebrating good grammar, proper punctuation, and clear communication with Frank L. Cioffi’s anti-textbook handbook, One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook.

Cioffi’s chatty and charming reference doesn’t just lay out the “rules,” but also makes a convincing case for why good grammar and usage matter. Cioffi argues that Standard Written English (also known as “formal English”) is vital for success in professions where exactness and clarity carry great importance, and he also proposes that correct English can foster a more honest, ethical, and functional culture of communication.

The book draws on some three hundred real-world sentences printed in eleven newspapers and six weekly magazines and published on a single, typical day (December 29, 2008). Cioffi emphasizes that English usage is continually evolving and he debunks some of the most popular grammar “rules.” Is it acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? It is. Can you start a sentence with a conjunction? You can. Is it “correct” to use split infinitives. Sure.

What do you think? Does “formal” English still matter in the post-Twitter world?

commas-save-lives

Check out the introduction and let us know.

We’ve also been tweeting out #NationalGrammarDay #protips from the book today.

Happy National Grammar Day!

Photo via Brett Jordan / Flickr