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Book Review: My Dog Bites the English Teacher by Marian Anders

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I would hate to live in Grammar; there are just too many laws. Okay, so grammar is not a place, but it sure does have a lot of rules, laws, and—worst of all—exceptions. My Dog Bites the English Teacher is a handy guide to keep computerside for double-checking all the rules you think you know, but for which you might need a second opinion.

I love Love LOVE My Dog Bites the English Teacher. Any writer would love a resource that takes his or her side in an argument with an editor. I got my copy of My Dog Bites the English Teacher just as I was debating whether I should address a number of changes an editor made to one of my reviews. The changes were incorrect, but I was so thrilled to be backed up by My Dog Bites the English Teacher that I let the matter drop.

I am not the world’s best grammarian. If I were, I’d be writing the book, not reviewing it. One of my “I wonder” areas is dialogue punctuation. It’s in the book! Also in the book are all of the things that bug us when we’re perusing social networks: subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, punctuation, and homophones (e.g., there/their/they’re, its/it’s). Author Marian Anders offers solutions to everyday grammar problems, as well as some of the more complex. She titled her tenth chapter “Traditional Grammar—Not for the Faint of Heart.”

Anders, a twenty-year veteran of teaching grammar, composition, and literature to college freshmen and sophomores, provides writers with the absolute essentials of good writing. In My Dog Bites the English Teacher, she provides the reader/writer with clearly stated, simple lessons followed by practice. The last chapter is “Additional Practice,” which could also be titled “Geek’s Paradise;” if you’re as geeky as I, you’ll delight in working on this section. (I still miss my tenth-grade <i>Warriner's</i>.)

One of the things that makes grammar so difficult at times is that we are exposed to spoken language, often delivered sloppily, lazily, or in ignorance. If we haven’t been exposed to formal grammar, or it’s not part of our environment, we are more likely to write like we speak. We are often not aware of the pain suffered by those who read our tweets, news feed posts, or e-mail. As with all change, the person who needs to improve his or her writing must want to do it. The next step is find a good resource to study, and the third is to practice.

Knowing that commas have seven jobs and apostrophes and semi-colons have two each isn’t something imparted genetically. Good writers don’t get good by luck or chance. All writers—whether they are book report writers, letter writers, technical writers, or novelists—need to have a reference book for those “in doubt” moments. I highly recommend My Dog Bites the English Teacher. It is concise, humorous (at times), easy to understand and use, and it has a cool title.

Anders teaches that good grammar is a skill, like driving a car, which needs to be developed. It’s also like driving a car because you need to pay attention. Once lessons are learned, it gets easier and easier to apply them. In commenting on My Dog Bites the English Teacher, a reader wrote, “I used to hate English, but this isn’t too bad.” I was relieved when I found that he or she was a college freshman. My Dog Bites the English Teacher is for anyone who hates grammar, needs a refresher, or has an occasional question.

Bottom Line: Would I buy My Dog Bites the English Teacher? Yes. Did you have to ask? (By the way, did you find five errors in this review?)

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