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Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors

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From one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling authors, a terrifically useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers. What is the singular form of graffiti? From what mythological figure is the word “tantalize” derived? One of the English language’s most skilled writers guides us all toward precise, From one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling authors, a terrifically useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers. What is the singular form of graffiti? From what mythological figure is the word “tantalize” derived? One of the English language’s most skilled writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage. Covering spelling, capitalization, plurals, hyphens, abbreviations, and foreign names and phrases, Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors will be an indispensable companion for all who care enough about our language not to maul, misuse, or contort it. As Bill Bryson notes, “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense.” This dictionary is an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language.


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From one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling authors, a terrifically useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers. What is the singular form of graffiti? From what mythological figure is the word “tantalize” derived? One of the English language’s most skilled writers guides us all toward precise, From one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling authors, a terrifically useful and readable guide to the problems of the English language most commonly encountered by editors and writers. What is the singular form of graffiti? From what mythological figure is the word “tantalize” derived? One of the English language’s most skilled writers guides us all toward precise, mistake-free usage. Covering spelling, capitalization, plurals, hyphens, abbreviations, and foreign names and phrases, Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors will be an indispensable companion for all who care enough about our language not to maul, misuse, or contort it. As Bill Bryson notes, “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense.” This dictionary is an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language.

30 review for Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael MacKian

    Dictionaries in general are wonderful thieves of time. How often one gets distracted, meandering from word to word, even forgetting the reason for opening the book in the first place. Well, Bryson's Dictionary is different. Yes, it is good for reference, giving the trickier spellings, words which are often confused, British and American uses and so on, but for a writer it can also be read from cover to cover for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. And it has the advantage that it can be put down a Dictionaries in general are wonderful thieves of time. How often one gets distracted, meandering from word to word, even forgetting the reason for opening the book in the first place. Well, Bryson's Dictionary is different. Yes, it is good for reference, giving the trickier spellings, words which are often confused, British and American uses and so on, but for a writer it can also be read from cover to cover for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. And it has the advantage that it can be put down at any point without losing the plot!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tara Cignarella

    informative .. would recommend

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    If Bernstein's the acknowledged expert on English grammar, Bill Bryson is the most famous living expert who share's his knowledge with a pinch of humility and humor. I met Bryson reading his Short History of Nearly Everything. Therein lay the seeds of my initial distrust. How could an author who wrote such an enthralling historic book like Short History switch genres and write a successful dictionary? Shouldn't that be the job of a bibliophile or Mr. Webster's great grandson? Despite my misgiving If Bernstein's the acknowledged expert on English grammar, Bill Bryson is the most famous living expert who share's his knowledge with a pinch of humility and humor. I met Bryson reading his Short History of Nearly Everything. Therein lay the seeds of my initial distrust. How could an author who wrote such an enthralling historic book like Short History switch genres and write a successful dictionary? Shouldn't that be the job of a bibliophile or Mr. Webster's great grandson? Despite my misgivings, I decided to give it a try. Anyone who could distill history into 480 pages must have the see-the-forest-for-the-trees ability to decide on the need-to-know grammar required for a budding author. After all, I needed to spend the minutes stolen from my day job on what would quickly kick-start my authorial expertise. I'd get to 'everything' later. So, despite my misgivings and with a nod for the appeal of humor in the dry world of word study, I bought Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors (Broadway Books, 1994). It didn't disappoint. As Bill Bryson notes, it will provide you with "the answers to all those points of written usage that you kind of know or ought to know but can't quite remember." It not only includes dictionary-appropriate word meanings, but factual details that writers might get wrong. On the one hand, he discusses the difference in meaning between 'a' and 'an', and then later, he shares the meaning of Au secours! (a cry for help). He seems to include 1) whatever struck him as interesting or relevant based on his own personal writing experiences, and 2) what he considers critical to be a successful writer--well-beyond plot, characters and story arc. Many entries have his notes/definitions/explanations, but some include just the word, there for a writers' ruminations. To that end, the book is a fascinating stroll through Bryson's writing mind. Here are some of the gems I found: * the difference between 'autarchy' and 'autarky' * 'auxiliary' has one 'l' * the difference between 'avenge' and 'revenge' * difference between 'before' and 'prior to' * what BMW stands for * difference between 'bimonthly' and 'biweekly' * what is carpaccio * 'chickenpox' is one word * how to translate Chinese names to English * difference between 'compare to' and 'compare with' * difference between 'compel' and 'impel' * what does 'Dum spiro, spero' mean ('While I breathe, there is hope.') * difference between 'fewer' and 'less' (the former covers singular nouns; the latter, plural) * the difference between 'gibe' and 'jibe' * what's a 'haggis' (Scottish dish) * 'Lacy' has no e * 'Laddie' isn't spelled 'laddy' * what's a 'macaronic verse' (a type of poetry in which two or more languges are mingled) * what's 'ochlocracy'? (government by mob) * difference between 'regretfully' and 'regrettably'

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Reading a dictionary is typically not the most entertaining read. This amazing book was entertaining, enlightening, and informative. I checked it out through the library, but will be buying a copy for my own shelves soon. It has changed the way I thought about words, constructing sentences and will in the future improve my writing greatly, I believe.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Bellhouse

    Not one to read all at once, but a wonderful reference to many of the troubling questions that plague writers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex Telander

    BRYSON'S DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS AND EDITORS BY BILL BRYSON: Bestselling author Bill Bryson has already amassed quite a career for himself with successful travel writing books like A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as books on literature and language like The Mother Tongue and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and even attempting to present a concise history of science with A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bryson now returns with Bryson's Dictionary for Writers BRYSON'S DICTIONARY FOR WRITERS AND EDITORS BY BILL BRYSON: Bestselling author Bill Bryson has already amassed quite a career for himself with successful travel writing books like A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as books on literature and language like The Mother Tongue and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and even attempting to present a concise history of science with A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bryson now returns with Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. He admits in his preface that it is a personal collection, "built over thirty years as a writer and editor in two countries," and that some of the obscure references and definitions may not be useful to many, like the name of the Sydney district Woolloomooloo, or that the residence of the Danish Royal Family in Copenhagen is the Amalienborg Palace. Nevertheless, Bryson addresses many of the common issues that make a writer hesitate – amoral or immoral? Effect or affect?. He dispenses with the dictionary’s phonetic alphabet, instead providing pronunciation help where necessary; as well as cross indexing so that in the example mentioned above, the entry can be found filed under both amoral and immoral for the writer's and editor's ease. Bryson's Dictionary is filled with innumerable references and spellings for authors, book titles, series, philosophers, scientists . . . you name it, making them even easier to find than looking up on the Internet. Bryson also includes appendices of punctuation and its definitions, words ending in –able and –ible, a list of the world's airports and their codes, the different currencies of the world, conversion tables, and an extensive glossary on grammar. Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors is the ideal book for most people who do any sort of reading and writing, whether it is the freshman heading off for college for the first time, the freelance writer looking to get published, or the retired crossword addict looking for exact spelling at their fingertips. For more book reviews and exclusive author interviews, go to BookBanter.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly H. (Maybedog)

    Initial thoughts are that there's a lot of info I wouldn't look to this book for. If I have trouble with spelling or pronunciation I'd look at dictionary.com which references several dictionaries. Otherwise I might look something up in his book that wouldn't be in there. So, as a reference book, this doesn't seem very handy but as a general info for a quick read-through, pretty interesting. I think I'll keep it in the bathroom until I've read it. OK, it's been in the bathroom for awhile and it ju Initial thoughts are that there's a lot of info I wouldn't look to this book for. If I have trouble with spelling or pronunciation I'd look at dictionary.com which references several dictionaries. Otherwise I might look something up in his book that wouldn't be in there. So, as a reference book, this doesn't seem very handy but as a general info for a quick read-through, pretty interesting. I think I'll keep it in the bathroom until I've read it. OK, it's been in the bathroom for awhile and it just isn't interesting reading. It's a reference book. It's occasionally got some interesting information but it's layered in with words like Citroen, the French automobile and tornedos, choice cut or cuts of beef or the difference between a trademark and a trade name. It's just easier to look stuff up on the web.

  8. 5 out of 5

    lia

    my god, what ego this book represents. It's a dictionary, of words and phrases that Bryson has found or thinks you will find troublesome/interesting. Many without definitions? So, you get to hear about the difference between leech and leach and lay and lie, and how some (what fools!) confuse laudable and laudatory. Its a highly personal book, that he compiled over many many years--pre home computer years-- but still, it seems almost totally useless. I would either use a regular dictionary (my fa my god, what ego this book represents. It's a dictionary, of words and phrases that Bryson has found or thinks you will find troublesome/interesting. Many without definitions? So, you get to hear about the difference between leech and leach and lay and lie, and how some (what fools!) confuse laudable and laudatory. Its a highly personal book, that he compiled over many many years--pre home computer years-- but still, it seems almost totally useless. I would either use a regular dictionary (my favorite is the american heritage) or, I would look it up. The two stars represent the fact that I like the idea of personal dictionaries..in theory.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    Delightful to meander through, this "dictionary" limits itself to words and topics that editors must frequently fact-check. The words phrases and abbreviations are listed alphabetically, and I imagine it would be useful were I an editor. As a person who merely enjoys words, I found that it did not work well as a reference. (I tried to look one thing up that turned out not to be listed, a random test, but a test failed nevertheless.) I laughed aloud several times at the concise and opinionated ph Delightful to meander through, this "dictionary" limits itself to words and topics that editors must frequently fact-check. The words phrases and abbreviations are listed alphabetically, and I imagine it would be useful were I an editor. As a person who merely enjoys words, I found that it did not work well as a reference. (I tried to look one thing up that turned out not to be listed, a random test, but a test failed nevertheless.) I laughed aloud several times at the concise and opinionated phrasing of Bill Bryson. He really has a gift for this!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This book was so excellent. Bryson includes all variety of useful things, from definitions to the correct spelling of confusing words, to cross-references and connotations that may get a "serious" writer into trouble. Bryson bases some of his entries on opinion, but in most cases, his opinion is itself based on a long and illustrious writing career as well as multiple referenced sources. In only a few cases did I disagree with his logic, and only once did I find an actual mistake Ulysses was not This book was so excellent. Bryson includes all variety of useful things, from definitions to the correct spelling of confusing words, to cross-references and connotations that may get a "serious" writer into trouble. Bryson bases some of his entries on opinion, but in most cases, his opinion is itself based on a long and illustrious writing career as well as multiple referenced sources. In only a few cases did I disagree with his logic, and only once did I find an actual mistake Ulysses was not the leader of the Greek army).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Taylor

    How lucky writers and editors are to have this reference work from Bill Bryson! A bestselling author himself across a variety of creative nonfiction genres, in this book he's opened up his toolkit to improve the craft of harried writers and perfectionist writers everywhere. He keeps his prose simple and concise, but his signature humor is there and his aptitude for storytelling. I say this every time I review one of his books: Bill Bryson is the best living writer in the English language. How lucky writers and editors are to have this reference work from Bill Bryson! A bestselling author himself across a variety of creative nonfiction genres, in this book he's opened up his toolkit to improve the craft of harried writers and perfectionist writers everywhere. He keeps his prose simple and concise, but his signature humor is there and his aptitude for storytelling. I say this every time I review one of his books: Bill Bryson is the best living writer in the English language.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Wolfman

    I don't know if I can really say I "read" this because it is a reference book. I checked it out and looked through it, but nothing captured my attention. It is the kind of book I wish I owned so that when I do have one of those weird language or spelling questions (like "Do you capitalize rock and roll?"), I would have a resource. I like Bryson a lot, but this isn't quite as entertaining as most of his travelogues and other books. I don't know if I can really say I "read" this because it is a reference book. I checked it out and looked through it, but nothing captured my attention. It is the kind of book I wish I owned so that when I do have one of those weird language or spelling questions (like "Do you capitalize rock and roll?"), I would have a resource. I like Bryson a lot, but this isn't quite as entertaining as most of his travelogues and other books.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sergio GRANDE

    Mea culpa. It's not Bryson's fault but entirely my own. Whenever I want to check the spelling of a word or its meaning, I wouldn't come to this book; I knew it before I clicked 'buy'. So why did I? Bryson, I guess. Not a great dictionary, not a great book. Still an entertaining piece to kill time reading a couple of words or pages at a time while you wait for your flight to be called or the cab to arrive. Mea culpa. It's not Bryson's fault but entirely my own. Whenever I want to check the spelling of a word or its meaning, I wouldn't come to this book; I knew it before I clicked 'buy'. So why did I? Bryson, I guess. Not a great dictionary, not a great book. Still an entertaining piece to kill time reading a couple of words or pages at a time while you wait for your flight to be called or the cab to arrive.

  14. 4 out of 5

    DJL

    I'm "finished" with perusing through this fascinating writing resource. It's not so much a book one reads cover to cover (unless you have a habit of reading dictionaries cover to cover for fun, I'm definitely not one to judge since I do enjoy the Online Etymology Dictionary). This is more a book to test the waters and see if it is indeed a good resource for writers, and as an amateur writer, I think it's one worth having on the shelves at home. I'm "finished" with perusing through this fascinating writing resource. It's not so much a book one reads cover to cover (unless you have a habit of reading dictionaries cover to cover for fun, I'm definitely not one to judge since I do enjoy the Online Etymology Dictionary). This is more a book to test the waters and see if it is indeed a good resource for writers, and as an amateur writer, I think it's one worth having on the shelves at home.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Helena

    "Read" is the wrong term here. It's a reference, so "flipped through" is more accurate. If I find myself doing a lot of copyediting again it might be useful to add to my collection--most of the info is available in other places, including online with a quick Google search, but as Bryson points out, it's nice to have it in one place so you don't have to hunt for it. "Read" is the wrong term here. It's a reference, so "flipped through" is more accurate. If I find myself doing a lot of copyediting again it might be useful to add to my collection--most of the info is available in other places, including online with a quick Google search, but as Bryson points out, it's nice to have it in one place so you don't have to hunt for it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    My parents sent this to me as a birthday present. Update: I'm reading a few pages of this every night before bed. I'm really enjoying it. If you are the sort of person who has a favorite dictionary, you should check this out. My parents sent this to me as a birthday present. Update: I'm reading a few pages of this every night before bed. I'm really enjoying it. If you are the sort of person who has a favorite dictionary, you should check this out.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Lynn

    (adding to the title)...and People Who Give a Damn about Grammar, Usage and Correctness I'm really excited to have this book join my library. Sometimes, a dictionary just isn't enough and Google is just beyond reach (no internet access). (adding to the title)...and People Who Give a Damn about Grammar, Usage and Correctness I'm really excited to have this book join my library. Sometimes, a dictionary just isn't enough and Google is just beyond reach (no internet access).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kami

    This is a really fun collection of trivia and information for writers. It isn't the kind of book that you read cover to cover, but one that I'll pick up often when I have a few moments and just want to learn something new and interesting. This is a really fun collection of trivia and information for writers. It isn't the kind of book that you read cover to cover, but one that I'll pick up often when I have a few moments and just want to learn something new and interesting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A fun reference book for spelling, misused phrases and the like It is perfect for those times when you are not sure if you should use effect or affect - Bryson puts them together and gives the meaning of each.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Those who have only read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in The Woods", need to read his "Dictionary for Writers and Editors". The Dictionary is useful, and quite engaging to read (well, engaging to a word nerd, reaching out to other fellow word nerd fans). Those who have only read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in The Woods", need to read his "Dictionary for Writers and Editors". The Dictionary is useful, and quite engaging to read (well, engaging to a word nerd, reaching out to other fellow word nerd fans).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I'll be using this book for years to come. Not just for writers, but for anyone who enjoys trivia (or just knowing more stuff). I'll be using this book for years to come. Not just for writers, but for anyone who enjoys trivia (or just knowing more stuff).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I skimmed this, because, well, it's a dictionary. But I had to pick it up since it's by one of my favorite authors. I skimmed this, because, well, it's a dictionary. But I had to pick it up since it's by one of my favorite authors.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna Quinn

    Good to have on hand for anyone who likes to read... a reference book you can pick up, randomly select a page, read for 2 mins, and learn 10 things.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenne

    An enjoyable book to flick through and dip into. Even Bryson's humour comes through in his explanations. A great dictionary for writers and people who just can't spell! An enjoyable book to flick through and dip into. Even Bryson's humour comes through in his explanations. A great dictionary for writers and people who just can't spell!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    Fascinated and obsessed by the first 50 pages, then got (expectedly) repetitive. Still, I learned a lot and am glad I pushed on through.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brainorgan

    Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors by Bill Bryson (2008) Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors by Bill Bryson (2008)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen Watkins

    I still remember that Col o mbia is a country and Col u mbia is everything else.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Anyone who loves language and words will love this. Not to read per se, but to browse with delight.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shawna Massengill

    Again, worth picking up if you see it for a reasonable price but not a must have.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    I love everything he writes, and this dictionary is no exception. Who thought reading a dictionary would be so much fun!?! Makes me love words even more than I already did!

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