Book Review: Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Writing Errors

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Writing Errors by Jenny Baranick. She is an English professor teaching composition, critical thinking, and remedial English.

Long ago, I remember sitting in an English Literature class and asking, “Why do I have to do that? It makes no sense to me.” The professor (the only one to give me a “C” on my college transcripts) said “When you finish graduate school you can use semicolons how ever you want.” Several years later, my masters degree freshly framed and hanging on my wall, I did something I been waiting a long time to do: I gave my Chicago Manual of Style to a friend and said “I have my graduate degree; I can use semi colons however I want; Woohooo!” That is pretty much a true story and for the record I miss my Chicago Manual of Style. When I saw Missed Periods on the list of books for review, I thought I might take a look and see how badly I have strayed.

Ms Heskett* was my high school English teacher. I will remember her as well as I remember my drill instructors in boot camp. Baranick, however, is no drill instructor. She teaches with current cultural references like Facebook, Johnny Depp, quite a bit of Ben Aflick. Also there are tips, like if spellcheck can’t figure out what you are trying to spell, type it in to Google search. Google has an amazing knack for figuring out what words you are after from a jumble of letters.

Spelling and punctuation are all covered along with those tricky words like, all right and alright (spellchecker liked this non-word), alot and a lot, effect and affect, and every day and everyday. Baranick uses humor and not lame English teacher jokes. She gets your attention, holds it, and brings the point home. She keeps it simple and straight forward.

There is also a section on email etiquette, and reminder that emails are letters and should be written as such. Also your email address for professional (and college) communications should be professional like “first and last name”@email.com not fallingdowndrunk@email.com. On the subject of professionalism, resumes are also covered. Baranick also busts some long held grammar myths too.

Baranick loves grammar and her job. It shows in her book. It is not dry and boring and filled with sentence diagramming drills; it is fun. I enjoyed reading it and I am sure her students have benefited from dedication. I even enjoyed the quizzes at the end of each chapter. Missed Periods is the teaspoon of sugar for the medicine of grammar. I recommend this book to students in high school through college, people wanting to brush-up on grammar without pain, and people with graduate degrees who might want to use a semicolon properly. I am keeping this book; I need it.

* I made peace with her after I graduated and was serving in the Marines. No hard feelings for failing me a semester.

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