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Between You & Me

Confessions of a Comma Queen

Mary Norris (Author)

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“Hilarious. . . . This book charmed my socks off.” —Patricia O’Conner, New York Times Book Review

Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker's copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris's laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage—comma faults, danglers, "who" vs. "whom," "that" vs. "which," compound words, gender-neutral language—and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord's Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster's groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world's only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.

Readers—and writers—will find in Norris neither a scold nor a softie but a wise and witty new friend in love with language and alive to the glories of its use in America, even in the age of autocorrect and spell-check. As Norris writes, "The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can't let it push you around."

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • April 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35214-6
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 240 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide, excluding Australia and New Zealand.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverBetween You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

    Hardcover

Endorsements & Reviews

“Ms. Norris, who has a dirty laugh that evokes late nights and Scotch, is…like the worldly aunt who pulls you aside at Thanksgiving and whispers that it is all right to occasionally flout the rules.” — Sarah Lyall, New York Times

“[P]ure porn for word nerds.” — Allan Fallow, Washington Post

“Mary Norris has an enthusiasm for the proper use of language that’s contagious. Her memoir is so engaging, in fact, that it’s easy to forget you’re learning things.” — People

“Wonderfully confiding.” — Miriam Krule, Slate

“[A] winningly tender, funny reckoning with labor and language.” — Megan O'Grady, Vogue

“Funny and endearing.” — Joanna Connors, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Laugh-out-loud funny and wise and compelling from beginning to end.” — Steve Weinberg, Houston Chronicle

“Smart and funny and soulful and effortlessly illuminating.” — Ian Frazier

“Mary Norris brings a tough-minded, clear-eyed, fine-tuned wisdom to all the perplexities and traps and terrors of the English sentence.” — Adam Gopnik

“Mary Norris is a grammar geek with a streak of mischief, and her book is obscenely fun.” — Marilyn Johnson

“This is as entertaining as grammar can be. Very very. Read it and savor it.” — Garrison Keillor

“Mary Norris is the verbal diagnostician I would turn to for a first, second, or third opinion on just about anything.” — John McPhee, in The New Yorker

“Destined to become an instant classic…. It’s hard to imagine the reader who would not enjoy spending time with Norris.” — Christian Science Monitor

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