Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (Paperback)

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For someone who grew up with dinner conversations on the proper usage of “lie” versus “lay” and “who” versus “whom,” is a delightful journey to yesteryear. Norris, a long time copy editor at the New Yorker, covers every aspect of language, from spelling to punctuation to the admonition against saying “between you and I.”  She does so in a bright and entertaining fashion. I gratefully accept her advice not to “ultracrepidate,” (use words beyond my expertise.)  And I embrace her declaration that, “The semicolon can be done without.” Between you and me, this an entertaining and instructive read.

— From Ann


Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker's copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris's laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage--comma faults, danglers, "who" vs. "whom," "that" vs. "which," compound words, gender-neutral language--and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord's Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster's groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world's only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.

Readers--and writers--will find in Norris neither a scold nor a softie but a wise and witty new friend in love with language and alive to the glories of its use in America, even in the age of autocorrect and spell-check. As Norris writes, "The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can't let it push you around."

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393352146
ISBN-10: 0393352145
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 4th, 2016
Pages: 240
Language: English