Books and articles — grammar

Associated Press Stylebook. And why not? Its Guide to Punctuation, in the appendices, is succinct and comprehensive.

“Authority and American Usage,” by David Foster Wallace, in Consider the Lobster And Other Essays. A deeply felt defense of prescriptivism in writing.

Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences: A Guide to Avoiding the Most Common Errors in Grammar and Punctuation, by Janis Bell.

Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation, by Richard Lederer and John Shore. Witty, sometimes corny, like a lot of better-known books (Woe is I, The Elephants of Style and so on). I like it for its limited scope. A quick read.

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Classic. People may debate whether its own style has grown old, but it belongs on every writer’s bookshelf.

The War Against Grammar, by David Mulroy. See this post and this post for my rave reviews.

“When Journalism Majors Don’t Know Grammar,” by Gerald Grow. Brilliant. Like Mulroy, Grow examines how and why we as a society abandoned grammar instruction; then, he explores the approaches available to journalism programs. I wrote about this essay here.

Working With Words: A Handbook for Media Writers and Editors, by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson. The primary text in my grammar lab, this book goes into detail about basic grammar. It has many useful lists: the principal parts of irregular verbs, “One Word, Two Words or Hyphenated?” and “Confused Words” (arrant vs. errant, a while vs. awhile, abundant vs. fulsome, to pick a few beginning with A). Weakest chapter: punctuation, which is why I also require Comma Sense and the Stylebook.

Books — nonfiction

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert Caro. Revelatory. A must read for anyone covering New York City, or for anyone living in the city or its environs who has ever sat in traffic on an “expressway” or wondered who Major Deegan was and why he deserved to have a road named after him.

Up in the Old Hotel, by Joseph Mitchell. The Great South Bay in the heyday of the bayman. Meat-eating in the heyday of the New York steakhouse. Joe Gould’s Secret. Stories from one of The New Yorker’s greatest writers.

Books — fiction that tells another kind of truth

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton. Lily Bart’s tenuous hold on 1890s New York society and her descent into despair.

Damascus Gate, by Robert Stone. Stone explores the tremendous pressures and counterpressures on the State of Israel and the lives of Palestinians in a way no news story could. Essential reading for those who wish to understand multiple facets of this complicated region.

Links — grammar

There are many. These are the best. Both are comprehensive, easy to use and clearly written.

Also useful: A treasure trove, assembled by Gerald Grow, a retired professor of journalism. Zillions of grammar, style, usage, AP style and other exercises; links to Dow-Jones writing tests; plus more.

Article — numeracy

“Assessing the State of Math Education in ACEJMC-accredited and Non-accredited Undergraduate Journalism Programs,” by Christine Cusatis and Renee Martin-Kratzer, in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, vol. 64, no. 4, Winter 2010. Documents the sad state of affairs and provides ammunition for anyone trying to convince a dean that strong numeracy training can differentiate one’s journalism program.

Links — numeracy A free, self-directed course from the Poynter Institute’s News University. I use this in my Reporting 2 class, but it’s only a Band-Aid. Professors can require students to file reports of time spent on the site. Best feature: links to narratives about and both good and bad examples of quantitative literacy in journalism. These links are in the “Resources on the Web” section of the “Backgrounders” A new course from Poynter’s News University, still in beta testing. Tom Johnson of the Institute for Analytic Journalism writes, “[This is] a tool to help reporters conceptualize and better understand the numbers they are using and writing about.” “Numeracy for Journos,” by Tom Johnson. PowerPoint from AEJMC 2010 convention panel on “The Problems That Won’t Go Away: Grammatical and Quantitative Competence in Journalism Students.” Outstanding overview of why journalists need quantitative literacy and how to get there. Covers the math, the reporting and the writing. Video of “The Problems That Won’t Go Away: Grammatical and Quantitative Competence in Journalism Students,” a panel session at the annual meeting of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications, Denver, Colo., Aug. 5, 2010.

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