The book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids or work…

The Elements of F*cking StyleThe book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids. It’s also not safe for work.

The book’s about invaluable subject matter: grammar and punctuation. But it’s delivered in a far-from-the-traditionally-dry fashion.

Penned by Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen, the co-authors of a similarly entitled blog The F*cking Word of the Day, The Elements of F*cking Style book delivers style tips through accessible, sass-filled language and dirty—and therefore eminently memorable—examples.

As a writer and editor who spends a good portion of her time trying to commit grammar and punctuation rules to memory and then apply them with some authority and consistency*, this book taught me moar useful stuff than all the manuals currently lining my shelves combined. As Baker and Hansen point out, the guides we use (and continue to inflict on ourselves and others) are woefully outdated.

For example, seminal text The Elements of Style, which has sold more copies than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code collectively, was first published in 1918. That was, they note, a time when words such as ‘gay’ had entirely different meanings from which they do today. Yet the manual hasn’t been overly updated to reflect our new era’s meanings and our less formal, more interactive means of engaging with texts.

You may not have a taste for trucker talk as I do, but Elements of F*cking Style is undeniably unforgettable. Which is precisely the point. As Baker and Hansen note, it’s easier to recite lines from Pulp Fiction than from King Lear. I’ll choose memorable over I might be offended every single time.

The book is slimline, meaning it’s both concise and less intimidating than the tome-like style guides we’re familiar with. I wish it existed when I was starting out. And I wish university courses, schools, and beyond would make it required reading, conservative, easily offended lobby groups be damned.

The Elements of F*cking Style features fantastic subject headings/areas, including ‘Commas are f*cking fun’, ‘Words Your Bound to F&ck Up’, ‘A colon is more than an organ that gets cancer’, and ‘Use strong, definite language in your writing. Make that sentence your b*tch’.

Most of the examples provided by the authors aren’t safe for publication on a family friendly blog such as this, so I’ll stick to mentioning a few of the more neutral ones. This includes the advice to get someone else to proofread your work for you as ‘even the clinically insane make sense to themselves’. Or this one:

Reading a paragraph that jumps from past to present and back again is a f*cking drain, isn’t it? As a reader it’s difficult to read a paragraph like this and not be p*ssed off at the writer. Couldn’t he or she keep it together for a few goddamned sentences?

My favourite part, though, is the end where Baker and Hansen write: ‘Holy sh*t, you made it to the end of a book about f*cking grammar.’ It’s a fair call, but after patting myself on the back, I considered that the real heroes are Baker and Hansen for making the book so easy to read I’d made it to the end before I realised.

Sure, I’m a writer and editor and this is the kind of book I should reach the end of. But have I ever read more than the specific entry I need, much less then book it its entirety, of any other grammar guide?

I’ve done that with precisely zero. Based on the grammar crimes committed daily in text messages and on social media, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the number of non-word-nerd people who’ve actually read a style manual is equally low.

‘Grammar isn’t a sexy subject,’ Baker and Hansen write in their introduction. With that, I’d wholeheartedly agree. But with Elements of F*cking Style they’ve at least made explanations of it and its complicated quirks clear and helpful. This is definitely going to be the go-to guide for me when I next need a refresher (or when people as for a recommendation for where to learn our language’s finer points). And with Christmas around the corner, this may be appearing in a few people’s stockings…

 

*And I’m bound to have mucked something up in this here post—I’m human, I’m tired, I don’t have someone with fresh eyes currently available to proofread my work. If you spot a typo or some punctuation or grammar ineptitude by me, please feel free to flag it in the comments below.

Life in Publishing

I won’t tell you the following blog is funny. Because that would immediately make it not so. I will say, though, that sometimes you stumble upon content on the interwebs that sums up your daily experience and that completely tickles your inner funny bone.

Life in Publishing is one such example, a (for me, at least) snort-inducing blog skewering the publishing industry from the inside (massive props to my friend and fellow editor, Judi, who first found it and sent it to me).

The blog’s tagline is simple and straight up: ‘I work for a publishing company in New York. This is the life.’ Its posts are wicked and evil and fist-pump-inspiring hilarious. At least, it is if you work in the industry and experience the memes it covers daily. Few blogs I’ve seen to date have nailed the life of an editor as strongly.

Some of my faves so far include:

  • Googling an author for the first time and learning they are attractive.
  • When I walk past an intern and see them staring blankly (truthfully, I just love the paw-waving cat)
  • When a celebrity author is in the building and I’m trying to catch a glimpse (ok, I just love the owls)
  • When I’m riding in the elevator with the CEO (an owl, again = pure gold)
  • When I can finally stop working on a book
  • When I flip through a book at work and stumble on a good sex scene
  • When I’m asked to fix a formatting hiccup and I think it will be easy until I see just how much they f&%ked it up
  • When an author tries to explain their weird idea for a publicity plan
  • When I shut down an author/editor/agent, but know that my boss has my back (ok, maybe it’s the owls that are getting me)
  • When I save a galley for myself but then someone legitimately needs it
  • When someone complains that their net galley request was rejected (lolcats!)
  • When the creepy old guy’s book has a lesbian scene
  • To the asshole authors, agents, editors, managers, etc.
  • When you’re at a party and someone starts to tell you this great idea they have for a book
  • The fact that the merger won’t be called Random Penguin (outrageous! And do they not realise that everyone in the industry will be calling it that nonetheless?!)
  • When my book makes the Times list
  • When I’m cold called in a meeting to give my opinion on a book
  • When my boss compliments my work (goddamn, maybe I’m just in love with owls)
  • How I start every week (the hilarious, kid equivalent of lolcats)
  • How I leave work every day
  • When I hear authors talk about how popular their book is going to be
  • The one perk of publishing: when you’re looking forward to a book and you get it months before it comes out

Yeah, so pretty much all of them. That’s not to say that Life in Publishing won’t appeal to anyone outside the publishing industry. In fact, I think it tackles some pretty universal themes. Happy reading.