Book review: The 25 Rules of Grammar by Joseph Piercy

Are you an ‘Olde School’ stickler for perfect grammar or a cool ‘New Skool’ devotee who reckons rules are not important?

Tuesday, 2nd September 2014, 10:00 am
The 25 Rules of Grammar by Joseph Piercy
The 25 Rules of Grammar by Joseph Piercy

In other words, does grammar really matter? The old school brigade believes firmly that language needs the rigid enforcement of grammar to function properly whilst the new school claims that like language, grammar must evolve and change. So who’s right?

In his fascinating new book, Joseph Piercy, a freelance writer and author, says that as these two diametrically opposed camps can never be reconciled, perhaps it’s time to find a third way through the confusing maze that forms the bedrock of the English language.

And to help us on our way, he has whittled down the 2,000 or so rules of grammar (including many which he maintains are now archaic or arguably unnecessary) to just 25 essential ones which he claims are the key to good English.

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Many of the current rules of English grammar date back to a 1762 publication by pedantic clergyman Bishop Robert Lowth which set in motion the arguments of usage that still rage today and laid down tenets of language which were avidly employed by a whole generation of Victorian grammarians.

The truth, asserts Piercy, is that while there are certain rules that should be obeyed to aid precision of thought and clarity of expression, many are now outdated and should be abandoned.

Piercy goes even further, claiming that the biggest threat to the English language is modern marketing and commerce lingo rather than sloppy usage or the influence of modern technology.

So it seems that grammar does matter and if there are some basic rules that you have never quite got to grips with, if there is a flicker of doubt over whether you write ‘who’ or ‘whom’ and a moment of disquiet about where to put an apostrophe or comma, this guide is just what you need.

From sentence formation and the business of nouns and verbs through ‘dangling’ participles and double negatives to punctuation, prepositions, split infinitives and misplaced correlatives, there is everything here to improve your grammar and enhance your writing skills.

Brimming with invaluable advice and written in a clear, concise and easy-to-follow format, Piercy’s book is beautifully packaged and the perfect way to learn the golden rules of English grammar.

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £12.99)