The Penultimate Word

5 Reference Books You Should Have If You Write ANYTHING

#5 – Grammar Book

It was on my college book-list, so I got it—Hodges Harbrace Handbook. I got it as I was told, but I never opened it. I placed it on a shelf in my dorm room and I dusted it periodically, wondering if I would ever use it. I kept waiting for an instructor to tell me to read chapter such-and-such and complete the exercises. Never happened.

Don’t let the grammatical terminology scare you. This handy little grammar book is easy to understand.Finally, years later, when I was combing through the house for garage sale items, I opened the book … and, oh my gosh … what a find! I should have opened it a long time ago. It’s a handy little book.

Granted, a grammar book is not nearly as entertaining as watching the SMPTE color bars on late-night television, and it does use mind-numbing terminology like antecedent, predicate, gerund, and intransitive, but it’s definitely a reference book you should have if you write ANYTHING.

As a guide to the rules of language usage, it answers such questions as:

  • Does a dog “lay down” or “lie down”?
  • Is the title of a television show italicized or placed between quotation marks?
  • Should there be a comma before and in a series such as “tall, dark and handsome”?
  • Is “neither” singular or plural?

I particularly like my Hodges Harbrace Handbook (even though it dates back to the days of disco) because it has an index. Not all grammar books do. An index helps you find the information you need when you need it. Without an index, your only guide to what’s in the book is the table of contents. What good is that—especially when you’re trying to find the appropriate punctuation to use with however? A table of contents wouldn’t list however, but an index would.

So it’s good to have a grammar book on your reference shelf. It’s even better to crack it open once in a while to see what’s inside.


5 Reference Books You Should Have If You Write ANYTHING

#1 Dictionary
#2 Thesaurus
#3 Style Guide
#4 Dictionary of Synonyms


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