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Books we love

Coach Daphne's Writing Books

Writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant, who contributed this week's "Word Count" feature, suggests these terrific books on grammar and writing. Daphne tells us about her picks:

The Transitive Vampire by Karen Gordon. "This book is not only funny, it's also short and substantive -- a bit of a hat-trick when it comes to grammar. The design conceit is that it is illustrated with line drawings of dragons, gargoyles and, yes, vampires. The drawings are quite serious and the captions are silly. And the juxtaposition of the two always makes a grammatical point."

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale. "I like this book because it covers more than grammar -- and because it's funny and flexible. Hale is not the kind of gal who's going to get her knickers in knot over rules. In fact, she's all for breaking them (the catch is that you need to know you're breaking them.) I like the way the book is divided into three main parts with a set of chapters devoted to various parts of speech -- nouns, pronouns, verbs, etc. -- a set to sentences, and a set labeled "Music" covering voice, lyricism, melody, and rhythm."

Writing Well by Donald Hall & Sven Birkerts. "Aimed at the college student trying to produce term papers (and with the slightly patronizing tone such books tend to employ) this manual covers the holy trinity of grammar, mechanics and style. But it does so with such precision and thoroughness that I recommend it for anyone who writes. It also has one of the best and most detailed explanations of how to use transitions in writing that I've ever encountered."

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. "I had to overcoming my native dislike for relentlessly cute titles, but, in the end, I thought this little book was marvelous -- perfect for people who consider themselves "blocked" writers. Each of the 43 very short chapters tackles one writing idea and offers an exercise, which you're free to ignore if you wish. The writing is sprightly and optimistic -- mirroring the book's "can-do" approach. I like this work much more than Cameron's more famous Artist's Way. "

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