Dreyer's English, Benjamin Dreyer

A few days ago I wrote about having no guru, master, or teacher. I was wrong. I don't attend a specific school, but teachers, masters, and gurus are all free at the public library and Benjamin Dreyer filled those roles for me as I read, enjoyed, learned, and laughed through Dreyer's English, a book I recommend to every writer and reader as well as pretty much anyone who enjoys smart, funny people talking about interesting things. My wife tired of me laughing and reading sections to her, but she often tires of me and who can blame her?

Just about everyone has written about this book by now and what more can I say about it? My first thought when considering writing about it was this: don't. It has all been said by wiser and stupider (page 263, #22) people than I. Still, deciding not to write out of the fear of repeating what has already been said is the height of cowardice. But now that I'm here, what do I have to say other than that Dreyer is funny and made me smarter?


There is a section in which he describes working with Richard Russo on Straight Man, my favorite book and the funniest I know, followed closely by Russo's Nobody's Fool and Jess Walter's The Financial Lives Of The Poets. All of those make me stop and laugh out loud, not just smile and keep reading. That Straight Man still has this effect on me after at least half a dozen readings testifies either to its hilarity or my simplicity. I'd like to think it's the former. I'm sure that's what all us simple people hope.

(I liked the section enough to type "Hello," He Smiled: The Richard Russo Story in full, a time-consuming process far more useful than it might seem.)

Dreyer's English had me laughing at least as often as any of those and just as hard. This from a guide to clarity and style, though it's important to note that it is, as advertised on the cover, An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style (emphasis mine). Well, in that case.

I can't cherry-pick things to quote here. There are too many. Get the book from your library. If you're a writer, buy a copy — I suspect I will — and within a few pages you'll understand. It's good right from the get-go and it stays good.

The footnotes are especially funny though, no laughing matter, my eyes skate right over the tiny asterisks. There's a terrible word to pronounce, but I looked it up so as not to write asterices or some other atrocious mistake that sounded Latin and highfallutin (page 137). I'm not utterly correct, but hope springs eternal for my education, edification, and whatever word begins with e and ends in tion that would round off that triple.

Of course the problem with having read such a book and especially with writing about it, is that I'm imagining all that might be made better about this post were I to better pay attention to all Dreyer has told me. That and if I could pull of jokes as he has. Perhaps I just need a few footnotes, but alas, no.

That's enough out of me. Go read him. Buy the book from the link above and make me a rich man, yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum. Or something like that.