Book Review: Things That Make Us [Sic] by Martha Brockenbrough

thingsthatmakeussicTitle: Things That Make Us [Sic]
Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: It was the fall of 2004 when I founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar after writing a column about secret societies for the online encyclopedia Encarta.

Last month I had the fun opportunity to interview Martha Brockenbrough for a Literary Road Trip post. I appreciated her dry sense of humor and mentioned that I wanted to read her book Things That Make Us [Sic], especially for the part where she took Congressman Mark Foley to task for the poor grammar and spelling in his text messages to that underage intern. She graciously offered to send me a review copy, and I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for the past couple of weeks, making my husband wonder what on earth could be in a grammar guide that made me giggle, and at times, snort with laughter.

If you, like me, have ever been tempted to keep a Sharpie handy at all times to cross off stray apostrophes and add missing commas, then this book is a must-read. Ms. Brockenbrough uses sarcasm, wit, and puns to expound on some of the worst grammar errors she has witnessed in politics and entertainment.

Somehow the powers that be have decided to wage a costly and unnecessary war on the mother tongue. Someone in Los Angeles has decided that movie titles sound funnier with incorrect grammar, and that pop stars will have more credibility if they spell and punctuate as they please. Someone in New York has decided that “kids” and other plurals will sell more products when they’re spelled with a terminal z. Someone in Washington, D.C., has decided that people who regularly bungle language can be called “plainspoken,” when the truth is that people who actually speak plainly are the language masters, so skilled that their meaning is transparent without the use of long words, misleading jargon, or convoluted clauses.

After giving the grammar criminals in the media a dressing-down, she gives us the low-down on the rules – those that must be followed, and those that aren’t quite as mandatory. I was especially pleased to read that I can end sentences with prepositions and begin them with conjunctions – in moderation.

If you’re looking for a down and dirty grammar guide to help you remember when to use “lie” vs. “lay” and “affect” vs. “effect,” this book is just the thing. And if you’re too well-versed in grammar to ever “lay in the sun” or “lie your keys on the counter,” then you’re probably a grammar geek like me, and this book will give you fits of laughter and make you want to pump your fist in the air while shouting, “Yes! Exactly!”

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19 Responses to Book Review: Things That Make Us [Sic] by Martha Brockenbrough

  1. Pam says:

    I think someone needs to keep a sharpie and run behind me and correct my grammatical errors…
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Review: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston =-.

  2. Ash says:

    Ah this book sounds fantastic! I loved your review too.
    .-= Ash´s last blog ..Honest Scrap Meme =-.

  3. Kathy says:

    My son’s an English major and I bet he’d love this. Thanks for the review!
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Sherlock Holmes =-.

  4. Anna says:

    My husband calls me the spelling and grammar police, so I think this book sounds fun!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..MANSFIELD PARK REVISITED by Joan Aiken =-.

  5. lilly says:

    This book sounds like just the thing I need. I don’t necessarily think I completely suck at grammar usage but I know I can be so much better. It’s definitely going on my wish list.
    .-= lilly´s last blog ..BTT: Gifts =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Lilly – cool! I love grammar, but some things still give me pause, and I loved her easy rules for remembering things.

  6. Sharla says:

    I can’t wait to read this. It sounds fantastic! A grammar book with a sense of humor. Who knew?
    .-= Sharla´s last blog ..Review: Seven by Jacqueline Leo =-.

  7. Ali
    Twitter: worducopia
    says:

    I LOVE the title of this book! She sounds like a woman with my kind of sense of humor.
    .-= Ali´s last blog ..Diversity Roll Call: Best of 2009 =-.

  8. Michele says:

    I admit it, I’m a grammar geek. I think I collect books like this one, lol!
    .-= Michele´s last blog ..Weekend Cooking: Hotel Room Style =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Michele – have you read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss? That’s another great one.

  9. Michele says:

    No, I haven’t seen that one yet….(off to look it up on Amazon, lol) You’re not helping my habit here, ha.
    .-= Michele´s last blog ..Weekend Cooking: Hotel Room Style =-.

  10. Heather says:

    I read this book last year (I think) and just loved it, too. Like you, it had me cracking up! (My degree’s in English, so I definitely know grammar.) Thanks for a great review!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Review- Lucy Springer Gets Even =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Heather – I love finding entertaining books that feed the grammar geek in me!