I’ve never read punctuation books before for pleasure, but The best punctuation book, period. by June Casagrande is an impressively concise and useful book for anyone who has to write/edit in different styles.
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I talked about Grammar Girl’s Punctuation 911 in my last post. Next up, June Casagrande’s The best punctuation book, period. This one starts off by stating that rules for punctuation are not a single set of rules set in stone, but are in fact dictated by the style in use.
Whoa. I always thought that there were correct and incorrect uses of punctuation, with perhaps some minor differences between British and American usage.
And of course I knew about styles—I followed the APA style for my undergrad psychology dissertation; the MLA style for other academic papers; the UN agencies had their own in-house styles; etc.—but I always thought their primary importance was in giving guidance on how to write our references.
It never occurred to me that these styles could affect something, for example, as basic as how to make a possessive of a name ending in s.
For this, I thought the correct way was always to add an apostrophe then s, even if the name ended already in an s. So the house belonging to James would be:
But apparently, that’s not the case if you follow
(*Grabs head with both hands and groans…)
To help writers and editors, June Casagrande explains the basic uses of the punctuation marks, and clearly specifies where and how the following four main styles differ:
- Book-editing style (based on the Chicago Manual of Style; mainly for fiction, non-fiction and magazine articles)
- News media & business writing style (based on the Associated Press Stylebook)
- Science style (based on the APA style)
- Academic style (based on MLA style; recommended for academic articles and college papers)
Despite all that it has to summarize, the book is concise and compact, and readable.
The second half is an index of common words and phrases that cause trouble for many writers and editors. It’s a handy tool when you’re actually writing/editing.
Recommended for: Anyone who needs to write/edit/proofread in more than one style
This book is perfect for anyone who has to write or edit in different styles. Reading it through once is giving me an overview of where the styles differ, and I’ll be able to come back to it quickly to check up on points I’d forgotten.
Casagrande, June. The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson. Penguin Random House: 2014.
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