Dreyer’s English

This is a fabulous read

I am reading this morning and find myself delighted with this dear book. Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer. Yes, I called it dear. A language usage book? I thought I’d read and mark and set it aside, but it’s not that kind of grammar, usage, style book. Its a book of stories from a copy editor, a job that I would never, could never, do, but today appreciate with new eyes and ears. Listen to this, “As one of my colleagues once described it: You’re attempting to borrow into the brains of your writers and do for, to, and with their prose what they themselves might have done to, for and with it had they not already looked at each damn sentence 657 times.” So true. We need those fresh eyes, and a smart mind, like his, attached.

We do need to expose what we write, whether it be a blog, a letter, oh my, or email, report or story to others’ eyes and minds. A proofreader locates errors in punctuation, spelling, word usage, grammar and format. My mother has always been mine, whether invited or not, she can’t help herself. Yet, a copy editor seems to do it all. The copy editor has to know the piece, listen to the tone, voice and select better ways to say something, different words, (or no word) and phrases, using the writers style and tone. The copy editor can be a change maker, a deal breaker and a heart breaker too. Mr Dreyer tells stories of writers and copy editors arguments on the page, one writers response to a suggestion, “write your own fking book” in the margin. I would never do that, or would I?

The thing I want to tell you, before I get back to my Dreyer, is in Chapter 1. He presents us a challenge. Go one week without using, he clarifies, not while talking, but writing these 12:
in fact
pretty, as in, “pretty tedious”
of course
that said

He calls them Wan intensifiers and Throat clearers. I’m going to try it for a week. See any in that list that you overuse or hold precious or maybe want to dump? I am guilty of a few, especially troublesome is “ just.” I heard an interview with Benjamin Dryer on npr radio and he suggested that we surely must figure out a better way to make a point. Shall I try? Instead of “just” I will use, only, solely, merely, be more clever, clearer. My week starts now.

Benjamin, I became a first- name friend after merely two chapters! He is fine with a reader closing his book after his challenge, once accepted, to be finished reading. I am not done. I continued reading. I am enjoying his conversational tone, shared delight with language and the assurance I get from him. He’s on my side, our side to assist us in being the best we can be by sharing his insights, magic and not so magic tricks. I have so much more to tell you, but let Benjamin do it. I can hardly wait for Chapter 12, The Trimmables. He wrote that for me.

Thank you, Benjamin Dreyer, I’ll get back to reading and to mine more delights and discoveries from this fabulous book. Random House found a gem in you, sir. Thank you for caring enough to have this conversation with us.

gma, Nancy Brown NancyKayBrown.com

2 thoughts on “Dreyer’s English

  1. Nancy thank you for sharing Mr. Dryer’s book and your delightful experience reading it. I’m headed out today to pick up my own copy; always looking for a good read. I had a great aunt I would write to in Portland. She would correct my spelling in red pencil and Pull them out on my next visit. :-). She has since passed, born in the late 1800’s, however I continue to put pen to paper, stamp on envelope, and drop it in the post for other relatives who overlook the red penciling.
    My writing challenge is to forgo the use of “that”, “got”, & “get”. The latter I simply hate the way they sound. The first I feel most often is unecessary. All three challenge me to come up with something cleaner.
    Keep the stories coming Nancy. I always enjoy finding you in my “In” box. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Mom for noticing the spellings and mistakes in my posts. This one was a new one for me…“Something that recurs happens repeatedly, perhaps at regular intervals. Something that reoccurs happens again, but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals. For example, the sunrise recurs, and an unpredictable event that happens to occur more than once—such as an earthquake or a financial crisis—reoccurs.”

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