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Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer's Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage

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The old adage, rules are made to be broken has never been as well defended as in MISS THISTLEBOTTOM'S HOBGOBLINS. Throughout the book, Bernstein asserts that we have been indoctrinated with English usage rules that lack flexibility and evoke fear, confusion and frustration in writers. There are times when splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition make The old adage, rules are made to be broken has never been as well defended as in MISS THISTLEBOTTOM'S HOBGOBLINS. Throughout the book, Bernstein asserts that we have been indoctrinated with English usage rules that lack flexibility and evoke fear, confusion and frustration in writers. There are times when splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition makes sense. Through a series of one-sided correspondences with Bertha Thistlebottom, an archetypal grade school English teacher, Bernstein addresses the community of rule mongering sticklers who have tried to squeeze the English language into a set of inflexible rules and outmoded definitions that only serve to stifle its growth and paralyze writers. In addition to his letters to Miss Thistlebottom, there are scores of entries where Bernstein debunks the rules of yesteryear with wit and intelligence and illustrates how to write effectively—without the worry of hobgoblins.


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The old adage, rules are made to be broken has never been as well defended as in MISS THISTLEBOTTOM'S HOBGOBLINS. Throughout the book, Bernstein asserts that we have been indoctrinated with English usage rules that lack flexibility and evoke fear, confusion and frustration in writers. There are times when splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition make The old adage, rules are made to be broken has never been as well defended as in MISS THISTLEBOTTOM'S HOBGOBLINS. Throughout the book, Bernstein asserts that we have been indoctrinated with English usage rules that lack flexibility and evoke fear, confusion and frustration in writers. There are times when splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition makes sense. Through a series of one-sided correspondences with Bertha Thistlebottom, an archetypal grade school English teacher, Bernstein addresses the community of rule mongering sticklers who have tried to squeeze the English language into a set of inflexible rules and outmoded definitions that only serve to stifle its growth and paralyze writers. In addition to his letters to Miss Thistlebottom, there are scores of entries where Bernstein debunks the rules of yesteryear with wit and intelligence and illustrates how to write effectively—without the worry of hobgoblins.

30 review for Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer's Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Swanson-Diaz

    If your a literary professional, writer or just a plain old grammar nerd, you'll enjoy this book of hobgoblins! It's full of interesting facts regarding the English language, laid out in a quirky and informational way. I enjoyed the author's way of speech and his ability to keep a reference guide entertaining. I definitely took away some great tools for my editing and writing in the future! That's the thing about the English language, there are always more tricks of the trade to tuck away into y If your a literary professional, writer or just a plain old grammar nerd, you'll enjoy this book of hobgoblins! It's full of interesting facts regarding the English language, laid out in a quirky and informational way. I enjoyed the author's way of speech and his ability to keep a reference guide entertaining. I definitely took away some great tools for my editing and writing in the future! That's the thing about the English language, there are always more tricks of the trade to tuck away into your arsenal! And most importantly, this book concentrates on getting back to the written word, instead of being stuck debating oppressive grammar rules.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins was written (1971) before I was born. When I was in grad school (mid-1990s) for an English education degree, my professor would quote Bernstein at least once every class. I can’t tell you why it took me so long to read this “classic” English usage book other than there are always more exciting FICTION (and even nonfiction) books to read, but Bernstein is engaging. How can he not be with a title like this? Miss Thistlebottom may well have been my 8th grade English Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins was written (1971) before I was born. When I was in grad school (mid-1990s) for an English education degree, my professor would quote Bernstein at least once every class. I can’t tell you why it took me so long to read this “classic” English usage book other than there are always more exciting FICTION (and even nonfiction) books to read, but Bernstein is engaging. How can he not be with a title like this? Miss Thistlebottom may well have been my 8th grade English teacher demanding correctness in “all right” written as two separate words along with “a lot.” “What we require is neither a language that is cramped nor a language gone wild” (xii). Chapter titles are no less fun: Witchcraft in Words (who doesn’t love alliteration? Rhetorical) Syntax Scarecrows Imps of Idioms Spooks of Style To the modern audience, Bernstein’s book likely will feel hidebound, but I found myself smiling at his creativity in explaining the taboos and bugbears of the English language.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig Buck

    I've been a fan of Miss Thistlebottom (and Mr. Bernstein) since 1972. I've given this book as a gift a half-dozen times over the years. I still reach for it every so often to settle a usage question. It is both invaluable, irrepressibly witty, and seemingly ageless. Before writing this review, I went back into the well-thumbed pages of this book to make sure it had not been left in the wake of the three and a half decades since it was written. It stands as relevant as ever. A must-have for anyon I've been a fan of Miss Thistlebottom (and Mr. Bernstein) since 1972. I've given this book as a gift a half-dozen times over the years. I still reach for it every so often to settle a usage question. It is both invaluable, irrepressibly witty, and seemingly ageless. Before writing this review, I went back into the well-thumbed pages of this book to make sure it had not been left in the wake of the three and a half decades since it was written. It stands as relevant as ever. A must-have for anyone who relishes the English language and takes joy in its quirks.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This book was purchased for my writing library and will be used to refer to as needed. I like the fact that it's not your traditional writing style/grammar book but quirky and original. This book was purchased for my writing library and will be used to refer to as needed. I like the fact that it's not your traditional writing style/grammar book but quirky and original.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Keith Davis

    A great book to give any grammar snob who is a stickler for unnecessary and useless rules that have outlived their usefulness, if they were ever useful in the first place.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Regine

    Entertaining. A sensible stance amidst linguistic flux. A pesky hobgoblin apparently interfered with the proofreading. Bierce's appended "Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults" captures 1909 with acerbic precision. Entertaining. A sensible stance amidst linguistic flux. A pesky hobgoblin apparently interfered with the proofreading. Bierce's appended "Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults" captures 1909 with acerbic precision.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Perdue

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gene Epstein

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe Broadmeadow

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tes

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie Chambers

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rogena Mitchell-Jones

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gayle Signs

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Mosley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gail

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chandra

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Roth

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cat.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Girl Underground

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emilymcmc

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Poteet

  27. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wilhem

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  30. 4 out of 5

    Logophile

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