If you’re like me, you won’t particularly like The Big Ten of Grammar, by William B. Bradshaw, PhD. For one, PhD doesn’t think it is correct to say “like me” as I just did. PhD is the author of two other books, Fundraising: the System that Works (yes, I know “the” should be capitalized, but neither PhD nor his publisher seem to think so—“that” could be capped also) and Sinister Among Us, a novel. (Who puts “PhD” after his name for a novel?)
PhD is a longtime college English professor, but we won’t hold that against him. He professes authority to write this book because, in part, he almost aced his freshman English final exam on grammar. Well shut my mouth!
The Big Ten is composed of (not “comprised of” as PhD uses in one place) 10 chapters—could have been six or seven—of 80 pages and a rather long bonus section of 34 pages. Apparently the big ten are the misuse of “I” and “me,” “he” and “him”/”she” and “her,” quotation marks and other punctuation, the “ing” thing (ugh!), “that” and “which,” the apostrophe, “lie” vs. “lay,” “less” or “fewer,” commas and semicolons in a series, and commas between adjectives.
Okay, fine, yes, these are frequent errors, but, for example, “I/me/he/him/she/her/we/us/they/them/who/whom” are all the same problem. For some reason PhD saw fit to devote two separate chapters and one part of the bonus section for this one issue. Very simply, everyone, it depends on whether the person represented by the pronoun in question is doing or receiving the action. There, was that so hard?
Yet, his advice to remove one of the elements in such sentences as “Sally went to the store with Jim and I/me” is sound. You wouldn’t say “… with I.” But I object to PhD’s repeated call to rely on your ear and not to learn the rules of grammar. How are we doing these days speaking and writing by what sounds correct? However, he will turn right around and advise the reader to learn some grammar rules.
[amazonify]098423585X[/amazonify]Now, for the “like me” issue, which PhD does not quite see the complexity of. If “like” is used as a preposition, it must take the objective case (see Garner, p. 496). Even more complex is that this seems to apply when using a linking verb, like “to be,” for example. “He is just like me” is fine, but “She eats like me” is pretty silly. “She eats like I do” is correct, which PhD does emphasize.
For more complexity, let’s try the “ing” thing (ugh!): “I don’t mind you/your going first.” PhD says that you must use the possessive “your” before the “ing” word in this case. Not so, says Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (pp. 753–55), which shows that good authors (who are, after all, the final authority on English grammar) do it both ways all the time, perhaps even on the same page! Some grammar authorities vote for the possessive, other do not.
I am just not sure whom this book would benefit over others that are out there. The bulk of it, of course, is correct, but even then the explanations PhD gives are often anfractuous and pedantic—and he uses that 1940s phrase “follow suit” too much. The most useful part of the book would be the list of irregular verbs at the end, except for the fact that it is titled “Principle Parts” (ugh!).
F. Scott holds a PhD but will not put it after his name if he ever publishes a novel. He studies the complexities of grammar in southeast Massachusetts.
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