Author(s): Oliver Kamm
Are standards of English alright - or should that be all right? To knowingly split an infinitive or not to? And what about ending a sentence with preposition, or for that matter beginning one with 'and'? We learn language by instinct, but good English, the pedants tell us, requires rules. Yet, as Oliver Kamm demonstrates, many of the purists' prohibitions are bogus and can be cheerfully disregarded. ACCIDENCE WILL HAPPEN is an authoritative and deeply reassuring guide to grammar, style and the linguistic conundrums we all face.
My new style hero is Oliver Kamm for putting his head above the pedantry parapet and taking on the sticklers in Accidence Will Happen... Kamm celebrates the elasticity of our wonderful English language, and demonstrates that it is precisely the fluidity which makes reading literature - in all its various forms and styles - so exciting -- Caroline Sanderson THE BOOKSELLER 'Book of the Month' This is the most intelligent and entertaining book about the English language I've ever read, one that has transformed how I think about usage. It should be required reading for anyone who loves the language, especially those entrusted to teach it. Pedants are going to hate this book - and quietly take its lessons to heart -- James Shapiro, Professor of English at Columbia University and author of 1599: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ACCIDENCE WILL HAPPEN is a unique and indispensable guide to usage. It's distinguished by the author's keen discernment, his reliance on scholarship rather than dogma and superstition, and an ability to cite literary examples of contested constructions that is literally (yes, literally)awesome (yes, awesome) -- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of THE SENSE OF STYLE: THE THINKING PERSON'S GUIDE TO WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY The English language is not your enemy and Oliver Kamm is your best friend to help you navigate it. Never has a book on language been so illuminating and funny -- Agnes Poirier, author of TOUCHE! A FRENCH WOMAN'S TAKE ON THE ENGLISH Accidence Will Happen is an immensely intelligent and playful polemic, cheeky and erudite by turns... His book certainly gets the blood pumping, so do read it. Like the best things, it is about much more than it at first might appear to be about. If nothing else, you'll be able to go out and about, head held high, saving your stranded prepositions from harm and scooping up all your dangling modifiers from danger -- Roger Lewis THE TIMES Entertaining and refreshing... [Kamm's] book is a welcome corrective to the notion that there is an objective standard we should strive for, and a celebration of a language in flux -- Ian Critchley THE SUNDAY TIMES English language sticklers should relax and give our language the freedom it needs to flourish. It sounds a liberating project and he really does manage to make pedants look ridiculous -- Tom Payne THE DAILY TELEGRAPH Kamm's tolerance is certainly more preferable to the bigotry of sticklers who treat grammatical lapses as crimes or sins -- Peter Conrad THE OBSERVER [Kamm's] case against the pedants is compelling: peddling made-up rules, they either stray into contradiction or are forced to denounce Milton as sloppy THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH Accidence will Happen is a joyous and joyously liberating assault on the 'rules' of grammar which are little more than a hodgepodge of contradictory superstitions. Kamm's weapons are erudition and raw polemical vigour... No serious scholar believes that a language is anything you write and speak. In language you cannot be right against the world. If an 'incorrect' form is more widely understood than its alternative, it cannot be 'wrong'... It is the most sensible style guide I have read, not least because Kamm always puts clarity first... its monument will be the liberated prose of the writers Kamm has freed. -- Nick Cohen THE SPECTATOR Kamm is strongly influenced by Chomsky and is a "reformed stickler" ... his book delights by its puncturing of pomposity ... and its identification of pronouncements that have no foundation in scholarship. It leaves the reader clear that debate in print about English usage is a branch of both entertainment and politics. -- Glyn Paflin TLS 'This book came as a great relief. Although I feared I had a shaky grasp of formal grammar, Kamm reassures me that I have - in fact - acquired mastery as a native English speaker. With bracing confidence, he lays into pedants, sticklers and prescriptivists everywhere. Nevertheless, he's no anarchist: this book provides invaluable advice on writing with style, wit and verve' -- Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT
Oliver Kamm is a chief leader writer and columnist for THE TIMES. As a self-confessed reformed pedant he is the newspaper's unofficial expert on language and style, a subject he tackles in his long-running immensely popular weekly column, 'The Pedant'. View his profile at www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/profile/Oliver-Kamm @OliverKamm