Book of the Month
Grammar Smart

Publisher: Princeton Review
Author: -

ISBN: 978-0804125901

Upper Intermediate

Grammar Smart is one of a series by the Princeton Review which also includes Reading Smart and Math Smart. Grammar Smart is on its fourth edition which suggests that many readers have foundthe book useful. There are or course hundreds of other grammar books out there (many of which have been reviewed here). What makes this one particularly special, or worth your money?

The sub-title says that the book is 'A Guide to Perfect Usage'. (That means a guide to using English perfectly, rather than using the perfect tense, by the way.) Perfection is quite a claim for a short book. The author is quite correct to say that 'The words you use say a lot about you'. In his case, he has tried to make this book different from the standard grammar book by using humour. Sadly, instead of wit the result is sometimes just silly. Some readers might consider the 'irreverent' material to be in poor taste, and poor proof-reading means the spelling in this book is also not 'perfect' at times.

The book gets off to an intelligent start with a quiz that asks why the reader is learning English, and then goes through some tests to check what level of grammar the reader is at now. From there we get eight sections which go through all of English grammar at very high speed. That is to say, part one deals with complete basics - it defines word types and explains, for example, what a noun is. By part three, we are looking at misplaced modifiers and parallel construction.

To do so much so fast, you would expect every page to be packed with information. However, this is not the case - there is a lot of white space (areas of page with no words on it) on most pages as well as four completely blank pages at the back where you can put your own notes. There are no pictures. The final section is called the 'World Series', perhaps because the author hopes that the baseball metaphor will stop readers from noticing that it is really just revision. In the same way 'quizzes' are really exercises. These quizzes are sometimes in grey boxes and sometimes in the usual text.

Who is this book for? This is not a book for language learners. Rather it is a book for native speakers of the language who need to know the rules for using the grammar they already know. The book does a good job here, because the explanations are well-written and easy to follow. This book therefore works best for English-speaking college or secondary students who want - for example - to check that the grammar in their essays is correct. In other words, this 'Guide to Perfect English' only works of your English was reasonably good to begin with.

Verdict: Verdict Another attempt to cover all of English grammar in 250 pages
Assessment 4/10

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