That tireless verbivore Richard Lederer is at it again, this time providing, in cahoots with coauthor Richard Dowis, a quick-and-dirty grammar guide. In a time when Sing and Snore Ernie says, "It feels good to lay down," and Columbia University professor Edward Shapiro employs a whom where who is called for (in his book Shakespeare and the Jews), we are clearly in need of Lederer and Dowis to set us straight. In Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, the authors steer us away from problematic words and phrases (such as Aren't I); remind us of definitions we may have, er, confused (of, say, flotsam and jetsam, podium and lectern, prone and supine); and teach us to use comprise correctly.
But Lederer and Dowis are hardly anachronous sticklers. Their section on grammatical myths advocates the judicious splitting of an infinitive, using a preposition "to end a sentence with," and even, sometimes, embracing clichés. "Different from" is almost always right, they say, but "if your ear tells you otherwise, choose different than." Their "rule" concerning comma use states that "If the addition or omission of a comma makes the meaning clearer, add it or remove it even if doing so seems to violate some other rule." How refreshing it is to encounter grammarians who do not live in a vacuum, who know that "connotations are often more important than definitions, and that the true meaning of a word or phrase is the effect it has on readers." --Jane Steinberg