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I’ll Dot my i’s, but still Want to Murder those Commas

As I submitted my first novel to agents, my heart sank with every uniform rejection letter that I received. Then I was lucky enough to get a rejection that actually had feedback. I never thought I’d appreciate a rejection letter.  I soaked up the praise and took the corrections to heart. One issue was my grammar.

I was never an English major, and my college years are hazy at best. But like most writers, I love to read. So the next several books I added to my library were grammar books. And while the dwarves and readers can attest that there is still room for improvement, I have the resources I need to find the answers I ask and re-ask daily.

I thought I would share some of my favorite grammar books and hope you will do the same:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style

For the purely technical side of grammar, one of the books I recommend is The Chicago Manual. It is the bible of grammar, and it reads that way as well, slow and difficult. It has all the answers to my questions though, even if it takes me awhile to find them. They also offer on online edition which is relatively inexpensive and makes searching easier.

  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

This book breaks down the rules of grammar into easy, applicable tools to improve your writing. He has written several books that I enjoy, which says a lot given the subject manner.

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

It’s a small book with a powerful punch. I’d recommend every aspiring writer to buy it and read it, more than once. It’s a simple book with basic truths about writing.


I don’t think learning grammar is a one-time class. Heck, I had to look up one-time versus onetime while writing this. I am constantly still plucking away at my grammar books, reading a page here, searching for an answer there.  So if you find yourself stuck on where that comma goes for the twentieth time, venture out of the fiction section to find help.

What grammar books do you recommend?

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  1. I depend on the other evil 6 (or 7) to keep me on the punctuation path, but I do love my Synonym Finder if that counts =0)

  2. Thank you for the references. There are tons of grammar books, and I find it difficult to narrow my search. I’ve added your references to our writers in training site with credits to you and a link to your blog post (hope you don’t mind).

  3. I am the Evil 7s grammar-phobe in residence. The subject can be as dry as burnt toast on an August afternoon in a Phoenix parking lot. Two books I’ve found that make grammar fun, scratch that, palatable, are Comma Sutra, by Laurie Rozakis, and Woe is I by Patricia T. O’conner. Do not blame these authors for my inability to grasp the mystery of the comma.


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