Woe is I

Woe is I is a good-humored, breezy guide, designed to help conquer some of the more persistent grammatical errors. It is most valuable for writers intimidated by traditional "rule" books and technical jargon.

O'Conner's debt to the Strunk and White classic, The Elements of Style, is evident throughout – in both content and structure. She presents the rules of correct usage and the principles of composition – from pronouns and plurals to "Comma Sutra: The Joy of Punctuation." The book ends with a chapter ("Saying Is Believing") on how to develop a clear graceful writing style.

O'Conner's tone, though occasionally burdened with a strained jocularity, generally lends a sense of fun to her subject – without the concomitant "dumbing down" so prevalent today. Here, for example, is what she says about the word "unique": "There are no degrees ofuniqueness, because the unique is absolute. 'Nothing can be more, less, sort of, rather, quite, very , slightly, or particularly unique. The word stands alone, like dead, unanimous and pregnant."

This witty book is – as the author aptly describes it – "a survival guide for intelligent people who probably never diagrammed a sentence and never will." (A simple glossary of terms, an index and an excellent bibliography are included.)

(227 pages)

This review is courtesy of and copyright © by the Ayn Rand Bookstore.


  • Woe is I, The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O'Conner.