Give the Gift of Gab This Year

Rob Kyff on

Tickle the tinsel of your word-loving friends and relatives this holiday season by giving them one of these new books about words and language.

In 2018 Ellen Jovin pluckily set up her small "Grammar Table" on the sidewalks of 47 cities across the United States and fielded linguistic questions from passersby. In "Rebel With a Clause -- Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian," she recounts delightful anecdotes from her linguistic odyssey while dispensing helpful advice on grammar, usage and punctuation. In her breezy, street-smart style, Jovin tackles everything from distinguishing between "affect/effect" to resolving the "who/whom" dilemma to choosing "that" or "which."

What's the secret to achieving artistic and financial success as a writer? In "The Writer's Hustle -- A Professional Guide to the Creativity, Discipline, Humility and Grit Every Writer Needs To Flourish," Joey Franklin takes a Vince Lombardi approach. He stresses the fundamental habits of good writers -- observe everything, take notes, write every day -- and provides strategies for setting goals, finding mentors and navigating writing groups. It was involvement in a writing group, he tells us, that spurred Cheryl Strayed to complete her best-selling memoir "Wild."

Can improving our writing make us a better and more fulfilled person? Lawrence Weinstein thinks so. In "Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us," he suggests that we feel more empowered when we write in the imperative mood and more authentic when we avoid intensifiers such as "very" and "really." He says he feels most energized as a writer when he achieves a judicious balance of the active and passive voices, and more relaxed when he writes in the first person. I couldn't agree more!


What better holiday gift that a book about snow? In "Fifty Words for Snow," Nancy Campbell uses terms for snow or snow-related phenomena as prisms to illuminate the qualities and quirks of 50 different cultures. In Icelandic, for instance, "hundsslappadrifa" means "snow flakes as big as a dog's paw," while in Japanese a "yuki-onna" is a mythical snow woman who drifts through a wintry landscape. Reading this book is like shaking a snow globe full of words and watching the swirling flakes transport us to mysterious, enchanted lands.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, California, 90254.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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