Books — Between You and I
Between You and I

By Amy Diaz

Minding your grammar

A wee book of words, punctuation and proper usage

Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English, by James Cochrane, Sourcebooks Inc., 2005, 132 pages.

I love grammar.

I know that such a declaration is hopelessly geeky and could serve as a no-further-comment-needed explanation for a lot of lonely Saturday nights in high school. But I don’t care, I love the proper placement of a comma, a well-turned phase and an ingenious use of a prepositional phrase. (I stand in awe of those who always know when to use affect and when to use effect.) I also know that such a declaration is a gauntlet that I throw down at the feet of all those who believe themselves masters of (or at least serious dabblers in) the tricky dark grammatical corners of the English language. Let me state now that I love grammar knowing full well that I frequently misuse it.

Which is why any love of grammar must be accompanied by an equal love of grammar books. Between You and I is one of many recently released books that attempt to ease use from the thicket of grammatical confusion back onto the clear country road of saying-what-you-mean. And, that, ultimately, is the main tip imparted by James Cochrane over and over in explanations of when to use may or might, equate and equally or, as suggested by the title, me or I. We confuse ourselves when we try to talk in what we believe is a more formal manner. By speaking of ourselves in the third person or in the weird “myself” pattern, we tangle our pronouns, confuse our tenses and turn a big vocabulary into a collection of malapropisms. By simply saying what you mean, without any attempt at puffery, you cut down on confusion, Cochrane seems to suggest.

- Amy Diaz

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH