Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (Hardcover)

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Ever wondered about all those commas or strange word breaks in the venerable New Yorker? Longtime copy editor Mary Norris offers readers a delicious hybrid of a book--part memoir and part grammar guide. Hers was not a direct path to the copy desk, where she's spent the last 30 years. Her first job was inspecting feet at her community swimming pool. With a large helping of practicality, Norris goes into the nuances of grammar and punctuation, whichworked perfectly for me. I am a grammar book geek. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who likes a quirky memoir or a nerdy grammar book. Or both.

— Wendee


Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker's copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris's laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage--comma faults, danglers, "who" vs. "whom," "that" vs. "which," compound words, gender-neutral language--and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord's Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster's groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world's only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.

Readers--and writers--will find in Norris neither a scold nor a softie but a wise and witty new friend in love with language and alive to the glories of its use in America, even in the age of autocorrect and spell-check. As Norris writes, "The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can't let it push you around."

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393240184
ISBN-10: 0393240185
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 6th, 2015
Pages: 240
Language: English