Jeremy Butterfield

Making words work for you

Oxford A-Z of English Usage (2nd edition)

9780199652457

There are over 50 new entries in this edition…I have always found the first edition very helpful.

Reviewer for the Society of freelance Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

What’s in it?

  • All the essential information about how to use correct, appropriate English in everyday situations
  • Completely up-to-date guidance on knotty questions of English usage, based on the latest analysis of live data
  • Over 600 entries on common language and grammar issues that people are uncertain about, in handy A-Z format
  • More than 20 special features on tricky or oft-debated subjects such as hyphenation or Latin plurals

The types of topic covered include:

  • Easily confused words, e.g. founder/flounder
  • Basic spelling mistakes, e.g. genealogy, not geneology
  • Using words appropriately by using non-sexist language; how to write about disability, etc.
  • Grammar points, such as neither, shall vs will, collective nouns

The book reflects current  practice and attitudes, rather than seeking to lay down the law.  It reveals, for example, how straight-laced is now more common than the traditional spelling strait-laced,  and illustrates points with examples of authentic English, not made-up examples.

Common confusions such as uninterested and disinterested are explained, differences between British and American practice are highlighted, and a realistic attitude is taken towards famous grammatical conundrums such as splitting infinitives, ending a sentence with a preposition, and when it is correct to say you and me or you and I.

Publishing history

This slim but information-packed A-Z of English Usage is a sort of second cousin to my edition of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage.

It is a revised (2013) edition of the original (2007) edition. Oxford University Press commissioned me to put together a collection of key problems commonly faced by people writing English, taking Oxford’s dictionary usage notes and warnings as a starting point. I used my experience of editing and of training people to select and enhance the points covered.