The style and content are pitch perfect – neither overly fussy nor embarrassingly ‘humorous’
If you want to see if this gem of a book is for you why not take the quiz that the authors have put together exclusively for Broad Conversation:
We wrote our book, Grammar for Grown-Ups – a straightforward guide to good English, to show that learning about and understanding the English language can actually be quite fun and accessible. Some of the various existing tomes on the subject often seem to be either too old-fashioned, heavy-handed, pompous and dry, or too jokey, incomplete, occasionally even incomprehensible. Ours is not a bossy rant, but demonstrates that good grammar, punctuation and spelling are more important than many people appear to think these days. In a fast-paced world, when communications jostle for attention, if your letter, email or website page is full of errors, a reader won’t waste his or her time struggling to work out what you’re trying to say – it will just be binned, deleted or clicked off.
The book comprises six chapters – basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, not so basic grammar, English abroad and literary stuff. What follows is a little introductory taster quiz – one for each chapter.
Chapter 1: basic grammar
A noun is a word used to identify people, places and things. There are four types of nouns: proper, common, abstract and collective. Here are 10 nouns. Identify the type of each one.
1 Olympic Park
2 swimming pool
Chapter 2: punctuation
A possessive apostrophe shows when something belongs to something, someone or some people. Put the apostrophe in the correct place in the following.
1 the girls dress
3 the childrens party
4 wits end
5 donkeys years
6 Musicians Union
7 seasons greetings
8 Mothers Day
9 kids playground
10 Womens Institute
Chapter 3: spelling
In the following sentences, select the correct spelling.
1 Stuart was on the beers/biers last night, and came in to work this morning/mourning completely waisted/wasted.
2 The heroin/heroine in the storey/story died/dyed of a heroin/heroine overdose.
3 The seamen/semen were hoping for a good hall/haul of place/plaice and sole/soul, but the weather/whether was foul/fowl and they returned with naught/nought caught/court.
4 The none/nun had been standing at the altar/alter all morning/mourning, singing hims/hymns and praying/preying, and was now feeling faint/feint as well as rather board/bored.
5 The author had finished the final draft/draught, but before she could put it in the draw/drawer, a draft/draught blew/blue the hole/whole storey/story away/aweigh.
6 The council/counsel was in the final faze/phase of building the knew/new dam/damn, which hopefully wood/would not leak/leek like the last one/won.
7 The principal/principle tenner/tenor and base/bass were exercising/exorcising their/there/they’re vocal chords/cords, practicing/practising for the premier/premiere of the review/revue.
8 The ceded/seeded player ceded/seeded play.
9 The currant/current was against them in the rough/ruff sea/see as the thunder and lightening/lightning continued apace, so they brought the ship in to berth/birth.
10It was poring/pouring with rain/reign/rein, and the raining/reigning/reining Queen rained/reigned/reined in her hoarse/horse hoarse/horse, but in vain/vane/vein, as she was throne/thrown to the flaw/floor.
Chapter 4: beyond the basics
and less aretwo words often muddled up, but there is a difference. ‘Fewer’ applies to people and things that can be counted; ‘less’ applies to things that can’t be counted and fixed amounts. In the following sentences, should ‘fewer’ or ‘less’ be used?
1 There were — disruptive children in the class so the teacher was — distracted.
2 The rugby team scored — tries than they did last season.
3 The author sold — books than he thought he would, as there was — of a crowd than expected at the literary festival.
4 — is more . . .
5 Standing in the five items or — queue, Carmen was — than pleased to see the man in front had six items in his basket.
6 The door was — than ten metres away, so Don decided to make to quick exit.
7 Oscar Pistorius lost the 200 metres final to Alan Oliveira, though he took — strides.
8 There are — police on the street these days.
9 You’ll consume — calories if you eat — food.
10 — than a year after they married, the couple split up.
Chapter 5: to America and beyond
While English speakers from the UK and US, Antipodes, South Africa, etc., can of course be understood in each other’s countries there are interesting differences in vocabulary and idiom – which are quite useful to know, to avoid confusion and possible embarrassment. ‘Translate’ the following.
1 fender bender (US)
2 heavy cream (US)
3 sanitation engineer (US)
4 first floor (US)
5 spit (US)
6 dunny diver (Aus)
7 thongs (Aus)
8 robot (SA)
9 krimpie (SA)
10 jandles (NZ)
Chapter 6: literary stuff
An allusion in a text is an incidental comment on something – such as a familiar phrase, a well-known event – which the author presumes the reader will understand without explanation. It’s a hint, conveying a big idea in a small space without having to spell out the historical or traditional reference; a sort of literary in-joke, though not always a particularly amusing one. What do the following allude to?
1 John Mortimer’s Summer’s Lease
2 John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
3 annus horribilis
5 F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night
6 Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit
7Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd
8 Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust
9 salt of the earth
10 Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls
1 Olympic Park [proper]
2 swimming pool [common]
3 gloom [abstract]
4 horde [collective]
5 sadness [abstract]
6 pedant [common]
7 rose [common]
8 company [collective]
9 boost [abstract]
10 Rose [proper]
1 the girl’s dress
3 the children’s party
4 wits’ end
5 donkey’s years
6 Musicians’ Union
7 season’s greetings
8 Mother’s Day
9 kids’ playground
10 Women’s Institute
1 Stuart was on the beers last night, and came in to work this morning completely wasted.
2 The heroine in the story died of a heroin overdose.
3 The seamen were hoping for a good haul of plaice and sole but the weather was foul and they returned with naught caught.
4 The nun had been standing at the altar all morning, singing hymns and praying, and was now feeling faint as well as rather bored.
5 The author had finished the final draft, but before she could put it in the drawer, a draught blew the whole story away.
6 The council was in the final phase of building the new dam, which hopefully would not leak like the last one.
7 The principal tenor and bass were exercising their vocal cords, practising for the premiere of the revue.
8 The seeded player ceded play.
9 The current was against them in the rough sea as the thunder and lightning continued apace, so they brought the ship in to berth.
10It was pouring with rain, and the reigning Queen reined in her hoarse horse, but in vain, as she was thrown to the floor.
fewer or less
1 There were fewer disruptive children in the class so the teacher was less distracted.
2 The rugby team scored fewer tries than they did last season.
3 The author sold fewer books than he thought he would, as there was less of a crowd than expected at the literary festival.
4 Less is more . . .
5 Standing in the five items or fewer queue, Carmen was less than pleased to see the man in front had six items in his basket.
6 The door was less than ten metres away, so Don decided to make to quick exit.
7 Oscar Pistorius lost the 200 metres final to Alan Oliveira, though he took fewer strides.
8 There are fewer police on the street these days.
9 You’ll consume fewer calories if you eat less food.
10 Less than a year after they married, the couple split up.
1 fender bender = minor car accident
2 heavy cream = double cream
3 sanitation engineer = dustman
4 first floor = ground floor
5 spit = spat (past and present tense the same in the US)
6 dunny diver = plumber
7 thongs = flip-flops
8 robot = traffic light
9 krimpie = old person
10 jandles = flip-flops
1 John Mortimer’s Summer’s Lease (Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)
2 John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (Burns, ‘To a Mouse’)
3 annus horribilis (phrase made famous by the Queen in 1992, an allusion to Dryden’s ‘Annus Mirabilis’)
4 B52s (band named after a World War II bomber)
5 F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (Keats, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’)
6 Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit (Shelley, ‘To a Skylark’)
7 Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (Gray, ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’)
8 Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land)
9 salt of the earth (Bible, Matthew 5:13)
10 Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17)