Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Book Review:
Painless Grammar

Reviewed by Andi Ward
2004, Andi Ward


If you're like me, you don't remember much (if any) of the grammar taught in school all those years ago. Faced recently with the daunting task of checking over a manuscript, I realized it was time to go back to the books and refresh my faulty memory.

Don't get me wrong, most writers have an "ear" for the written word but, truthfully, where do you really need a comma and where is it optional? Or are commas ever optional? Rather than dig through the vastness of a style manual, I went looking for a basic grammar book and found Painless Grammar. I'll be honest, the title made me pick it up, and the freaked-out cat on the cover was cute too. However, in flipping through the book, I found what I was looking for.

Admittedly, Painless Grammar is written for children (sixth to eighth grades). Even as an adult I found it to be user-friendly, giving clear examples and explanations rather than spelling out a lot of rules and do's and don't's (which I couldn't remember in the first place). The one detraction from this is that all the examples are aimed at children and young adults, but hey, that's the original audience.

Dr. Elliott gives explanations in plain, easy-to-understand English. This only covers the most basic of grammar rules, so if you're looking for something in depth, stick with Shrunk & White. Elliot cracks jokes as she makes points, which helps to trigger my memory. She gives examples galore, showing and explaining why something is wrong and why something is partially right or just plain right. There are exercises for everything covered and little tests at the end. (Answers included elsewhere, by the way.) At the end of each section, there are sentences to be edited as a self-quiz.

Painless Grammar is just the refresher course I was looking for. If you're searching for an alternative to memorizing Strunk & White, I highly recommend this book.

ISBN: 0-8120-9781-5

SRP: $8.95