I was recently killing time in a Barnes and Noble and decided to make my regular stop at the publishing/writing section, to rifle through the offerings. I rarely buy at full price, but I only need a few pages of the book to tell if it's worth buying, and then I'll go and buy it used online.
For once I found a more recent grammar book that I would actually recommend: Lapsing into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them by Bill Walsh. Aside from being useful by listing common mistakes instead of going into complex rules of grammar first and hoping you get the rest (that's E.B. White's job), it discusses how grammar is actually a very malleable and the normal method of establishing a change in rules has been utterly destroyed by the internet. For example, high-school student became high school student (an exception to the general rule about multiple-word adjectives) a long time ago, while e-mail became email basically overnight. This of course makes the entry-level copyeditor's job go from hard to nearly impossible, and don't get Mr. Walsh started on the difference between copy-editor and copyeditor.
That doesn't mean it's a free-for-all and you can just go and do whatever you want, but it means that if you find something in a book that you think is wrong, you may be wrong yourself. Many people have criticized my blog for being spelled incorrectly. Is someone who rejects things a rejecter or a rejector? Answer: It's both. Both are acceptable official spellings.
What else did I read this week? (What's a low-level publishing assistant reading?)
The Lais of Marie de France
Japan Made Easy: All You Need to Know to Enjoy Japan
Rome and Vatican (travel/photography book)
Printing Press: Ideas into Type
Kabuki: Design Aesthetics (Okay, I didn't read it. I don't know Japanese. I looked at the pictures)
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
(I'm not planning on going anywhere. Most of these books were research)