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The Cambridge Guide to English Usage Hardcover – 29 Apr 2004

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The wry observation attributed to George Bernard Shaw that "England and America are two countries divided by a common language" finds support in The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Author Peters, of Macquarie University in Australia, provides evidence that their common language also divides Canada and Australia from the other countries.

Within the A-Z arrangement of brief, to-the-point articles, entries on catalogue and catalog, dived and dove, fitted and fit, freshman and fresher, titbit and tidbit celebrate transatlantic differences, some rather subtle, others more pointed. Peters draws on a range of authorities for her judgments on usage. Those include large databases, such as the 140-million-word Cambridge International Corpus of American English, and other usage guides from throughout the English-speaking world. In line with the most recent of these other handbooks, as well as the irrefutable evidence of present usage, Peters takes a descriptive rather than prescriptive approach. Her analytical discussions of parts of speech, grammatical concepts and constructs, and the like explain the origins of rules but also provide contemporary and historical examples of how usage tempers some rules.

Like other manuals that explain the difference between a monologue and a soliloquy, the lack of meaningful difference between further and farther, the confused state between inquire and enquire, the divergence of salutary and salutatory from their common root, and recent introductions such as emoticons, Cambridge provides sound advice for those who want to understand the English language and use it effectively. More than other manuals, it describes the way in which some usages have a local habitation rather than global recognition.

Considering the abundance of peculiarities and challenges in English usage, Cambridge will strengthen even a library well stocked with other guides. It is a serious book for those serious about language. Those who also enjoy the playfulness of English will continue to appreciate the complementary Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style (Penguin, 2000) and its sometimes witty examples. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


'The Cambridge Guide to English Usage is unique in the extent of its coverage of all the major varieties of English and in the degree to which it is based on corpus evidence, that is, on the analysis of vast collections of actual written and spoken language in each of the varieties under study. Peters' judicious use of these corpora and her evident familiarity with the extensive literature of past and contemporary language studies give The Cambridge Guide to English Usage an authority unmatched by any other usage guide.' Sidney Landau

'… invaluable …' The Good Book Guide

'… an ideal reference tool for fiction and non-fiction writers.' Ink

'There are excellent entries on matters of grammar, punctuation and style. Typical of these entries are those for relative clauses and the subjunctive, the colon and quotation marks, dangling participles and the sequence of tenses. These entries are very detailed and comprehensive, and written with great clarity.' Australian Book Review

'The A-Z format makes it easy to look up questions of word use, rules of punctuation and even whether (for example) to italicise your Latin abbreviations. If you are a working writer, this is the book to keep by you to solve all your tricky questions.' The Writing Magazine

'Users of the book will benefit from the author's having drawn on an enormously wide range of recent research and investigation into current usages and historic backgrounds.' Contemporary Review

'… refreshingly rational … You'll warm to her.' Sunday Telegraph

'This is a beautifully produced book, a joy to look at and to use … All in all, a delightful book … once you open it and find what you are looking for, there is an almost irresistible temptation to go on to dip into something else, and then something more, and so on … I shall recommend it to people who ask me questions about usage as well as to people who think they have all the answers.' The Canberra Editor

'The Cambridge Guide to English Usage will answer … thousands of … questions on usage …' Writer's News

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 622 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (29 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521847109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521847100
  • ASIN: 052162181X
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 3.3 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,83,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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