You gotta love a grammar guide that calls verbs "moody little suckers" and adverbs "promiscuous." Constance Hale (Wired Style) relishes prose that is deliberate, beautiful, and bold. Go ahead and break the rules, she says; just know the rules first, and know why you are breaking them. In Sin & Syntax, Hale examines the elements of grammar from four angles: the "bones" (the grammar lesson), the "flesh" (the writing lesson), "cardinal sins" (what she calls "true transgressions"), and "carnal pleasures" (the beauty that results from either "hew[ing] exquisitely to the underlying codes of language," or not).
For illustration, Hale hails Walt Whitman and Roger Angell, and rails upon Alexander Haig and the Gump's catalogue. She hauls in Joan Didion to make a case for writing in the first person, Mark Twain to promote the killing of adjectives, C.S. Lewis to advocate showing rather than telling, and Loudon Wainwright III to lament the abuse of the word like. But Hale has no problem making her own points. "Euphemisms," she says, "are for wimps." She dismisses a particularly heinous example of scholarly prose as "a bunch of big words thrown into an Osterizer." Even other grammarians don't escape her derision: "Get a grip," Hale says. "Hopefully as a sentence adverb is here to stay." But what distinguishes Sin and Syntax most is its enthusiasm for prose that takes risks. "Even if you have to check with a lawyer," says Hale, "isn't a kick-ass piece of writing worth the effort?" --Jane Steinberg
"Move over, grumpy schoolmarms everywhere. Your time has come. For the writer or wannabe, Sin and Syntax is an urgently needed, updated, and hip guide to modern language and writing. Nobody but Connie Hale could make the elements of 21st-century style so much fun."
--Jon Katz, media critic and author of Running to the Mountain and Virtuous Reality
"Sin and Syntax is one of the rare books that recognizes--and even celebrates--the fact that good writing has little to do with 'rules' and much to do with a true understanding of effective prose. Connie Hale provides us an invaluable service by showing us what works and what doesn't in the real world, regardless of what the pedants say."
--Jesse Sheidlower, Senior Editor, Random House Dictionaries, and author of "Jesse's Word of the Day" column