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Stop Abusing Our Language

by Clive Seigal

Rating: ****

Stop Abusing Our Language is concerned with the deterioration of the spoken English language. It comprises ten small chapters which address the most pertinent errors that are encountered and their corrections.

Given that I am both a Reviewer and a Writer who also sometimes despairs at the decline in standard of both written and spoken English language, this little book is preaching to the converted. However, I must view it objectively. There are multitudinous books on this subject, if you love and have an aptitude for the English language, then you don’t often have a need for them other than out of interest. If you struggle with English then these types of book can seem dense, difficult and patronising. Therein lies the problem. I think that the short length of Mr Seigal’s book is its strength. It’s a quick and fairly easy read. It is laid out clearly although a small glossary might be useful for terms such as past participle, superlative form, etc., and even the more basic grammatical words such as verb, object, etc.. Not everyone is lucky enough to have had an education that taught these rudimentary terms or English may not be their first language. I do think that Mr Seigal does, at times, need a little more subjectivity. It is a topic that if you are passionate about, you understandably can become quite heated and this ‘passion’ does break through a little; I would be careful of using words like ‘ignorant’ to describe people who misuse the spoken English language.

I thought that Chapter 6 (similar words but different meanings) could have been expanded. The classics affect/effect, compliment/complement were there although could be argued given their pronunciation is near identical that these are more written issues. Notwithstanding, I would have included discrete/discreet – although there is a written variation, I hear and see these two words muddled more than any other pair and they mean totally different things. I would also have included judgement/judgment. But, yes, then maybe we are veering more into the written language but I think both in the book and in life there is a crossover. Personally, I would not have included Place Names. English Place Names and their pronunciation is an infinite subject and has different status to misusing are/is. Further, the Chapter on Pronunciation is a grey area. You really need to be discussing regional accents/dialects which have great bearing and educational background; that then leads you into writing another book entirely.

Overall, I thought this was a good, accessible and simple introduction to the most common spoken English language mistakes and I would recommend to anyone who struggles, for whom English is not their first language or if you merely need to reacquaint yourself with the correct basics.

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