Be a SNOOT – an interview with grammarian Bryan Garner

CoverFor a fun spin on grammar and language, I recommend this interview with grammarian Bryan Garner in Vice Magazine’s literary issue. He talks about grammar today, teaching, and the influence on the internet on reading:

On tweeting:

I myself tweet and I use pretty much complete words. I find it interesting to try to get it down to 140 characters and at least to say something meaningful.
On vocabulary:
…  a girl I went to high school with … complimented me by saying, “You have a really big vocabulary.” And that was great. I mean, I had a big crush on her. I thought, “Wow, she likes a big vocabulary,” and I then spent a couple of years building a huge vocabulary, not realizing that this was not working on females at all. [laughs] But I started a vocabulary notebook that I still have today. It’s about 600 pages of words that I copied out of dictionaries, some of them very difficult and very recondite words.
On being a SNOOT:
I like friendly, warm, robust people who care about the language and use it well, and there are lots of them around.

Tips for good writing:

A really good discourse proceeds by paragraphs, and a paragraph is sort of the building block of a good essay. Too many people see the sentence as the building block, and they don’t pace their ideas well. They have bumps between sentences, not a smoothly flowing development of thought. Advanced writers know that the paragraph is the basic unit of composition.

You have to write a lot. You ought to keep a journal and write a lot of letters, and I mean old-fashioned handwritten notes. Read very attentively, keep a vocabulary notebook, and read a couple of books on writing. My first recommendation would not be Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. That would be my second recommendation. First would be John Trimble’s Writing With Style. It’s just a wonderful book.

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