Review: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style from the Copy Chief of Random House by Benjamin Dreyer
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by Random House


As authoritative as it is amusing, this book distills everything Benjamin Dreyer has learned from the hundreds of books he has copyedited, including works by Elizabeth Strout, E. L. Doctorow, and Frank Rich, into a useful guide not just for writers but for everyone who wants to put their best foot forward in writing prose. Dreyer offers lessons on the ins and outs of punctuation and grammar, including how to navigate the words he calls "the confusables," like tricky homophones; the myriad ways to use (and misuse) a comma; and how to recognize--though not necessarily do away with--the passive voice. (Hint: If you can plausibly add "by zombies" to the end of a sentence, it's passive.) People are sharing their writing more than ever--on blogs, on Twitter--and this book lays out, clearly and comprehensibly, everything writers can do to keep readers focused on the real reason writers write: to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. Chock-full of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts on the rules (and nonrules) of the English language, this book will prove invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people's prose, and--perhaps best of all--an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language. 

My Thoughts

As a copy editor, I keep reference books within arm's reach of my desk: The Chicago Manual of StyleThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, etc. It wasn't long after I began reading Dreyer's English that I knew not only would I be adding this book to that list, I'll also be recommending it to friends, clients, and colleagues. 

Who is this Dreyer, and why should you read this book? Benjamin Dreyer is the copy chief of Random House. He's been a copy editor for thirty years and knows his business. Dreyer recognizes that we're all writers in some way or anotherwhether it be emails or books. And for the most part, we all want to do it well. Dreyer shares some of his skills and tricks to make that happen.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style covers a variety of topics such as easily confused words, tidying up your prose, punctuation, frequently misspelled words, and rules and nonrules. Please note that this is not a textbook. It's written in a causal style that readers will enjoy. Dreyer's explanations are filled with humor, not overcomplicated jargon.

If you're looking for a good book to strengthen you're writing skills, look no further. This is the book you need.