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David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 195
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 02:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Now that I have used the written English language for umpteen years, I would like to know more about the technical aspects. I can't tell a gerund from a past participle. I must have slept through my English classes.

I heard the other day that you are supposed to use "different from" and not use "different than".

Any good books out there? "Grammar for Idiots"?

Thanks (or is it better to say "Thank You"?)
Richard Howard, AIA CSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: rick_howard

Post Number: 7
Registered: 07-2003
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 02:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I happen to like the web site "Common Errors in English" by Paul Brians.


Helaine K. Robinson CCS
Senior Member
Username: hollyrob

Post Number: 14
Registered: 07-2003
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 02:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have a brief and useful paperback reference:

The Elements of Grammar
Margaret Shertzer
Macmillan 1986
ISBN 0-02-015440-2
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 241
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 02:50 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David, et. al.,

There is a fantastic series of works by Diana Hacker. They are very easy to use - and the presentation actually makes interesting reading.

A Writers Reference
Diana Hacker
Plastic Comb Binding: Dimensions (in inches): 0.74 x 7.98 x 6.24
Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's; 5th edition (June 2003)
ISBN: 031241262

That's the primary book, and in use at more than 1300 univesities nation wide. There is also a pocket style book and a 'brief guide' book. Not needed if you get the above.

Just go to amazon or one of the other online stores and do a search under the writers name or the title of the book. It is updated every couple years, the current is the 5th edition.

The nice thing about the binding is that it lays flat. As the author wrote when she originally created it, most of the time you are not just reading it, you are using it while you are working and it needs to stay open on its own.

Here is an extract of a review of it that I fully concur with...

The book is organized into three major sections: 1) Composition/Style, 2) Correctness, and 3) Format/Basic grammar. Each of those major sections are subdivided into four supporting subsections as follows:

Composition/Style -- 1) Composing and revising, 2) Research writing, 3) Effective sentences, and 4) Word Choice.

Correctness -- 1) Grammatical sentences, 2) ESL Trouble spots, 3) Punctuation, and 4) Spelling and mechanics.

Format/Basic Grammar -- 1) Document design, 2) MLA documentation, 3) Alternative styles of documentation, and 4) Basic grammar.

In addition to those sections, there are tutorials at the front of the book that helps the user get the best benefit from support available in the book. There are also ESL hints throughout the text, not just in the section dedicated to ESL challenges. The index is helpful, there are several URLs at the back of the book where a writer can go for more help, and there is even a page that shows revision symbols.

There are ample examples throughout, and anyone who conscientiously applies the lessons in this book will become a better writer.

This is a top-flight book with great things to offer everyone -- from struggling first-year college students taking their first composition class to the polished professional writer.

They have both new and used editions available on Amazon.

John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 162
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 05:34 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have used this website for guidance, which is pretty good: http://ccc.commnet.edu/grammar. Of course, the kicker is that technical writing (specs) "violates" many of the rules of good grammer. We use sentence fragments, drop articles and all sorts of "bad English". Still, it's useful to know the rite way!
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 35
Registered: 01-2003
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 06:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My favorite reference is Strunk & White's "Elements of Style". The original was written almost one hundred years ago by William Strunk Jr. It is available on-line at www.bartleby.com/141/.

E.B. White revised Elements around 1957. My copy, which dates back to 1979, is a 92-page paperback, with a cover price of $3.50. It's about twice that much now, but worth it.

If you read Elements, you may come to the same conclusion I did - William Strunk would have been a good specifier! Although said in different words, he was a firm believer in the four Cs.

Another interesting on-line source is "Miss Grammar" at www.protrainco.com/info/grammar.htm. Instead of just stating a rule, the author discusses opposing views, making it both interesting and educational.

And then there is "Grammar Slammer" at http://englishplus.com/grammar/.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 36
Registered: 01-2003
Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 06:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Regarding the original question, I remembered reading that "different from" is the preferred expression, and sure enough, there it is in Strunk & White. There are times, though, when "different than" seems to work better, and I found a relevant comment at www.bartleby.com/64/C003/098.html that makes sense.
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 242
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 11:52 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Strunk and White is a great reference. And if you keep it current with latest editions, it keeps up fine with modifications in the language over time.

Its only drawback is that it is fairly direct presentation - here is the rule, here are a few examples.

Which is exactly why I like Hacker's guide. It actually makes decent reading in and of itself.

When it comes down to it though, just like in specs, its the tools that work for each of us that matter.


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