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Rebel with a Clause: Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian

Ellen Jovin

9 Reviews

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This Grammar Guru will solve the world's problems. Or, at least, help you figure out when to use an Oxford comma. - The New York Times

'The history of language has never seen anything like this. Ellen's mobile grammar travelogue, presented with an engaging humour and humility will appeal to anyone with an interest in the way English works - which means all of us. Reality television? This is reality grammar.' -David Crystal, author of How Language Works

For fans of Gyles Brandreth, Susie Dent and Bill Bryson, an unconventional guide to the English language drawn from the cross-country adventures of an itinerant grammarian.

When Ellen Jovin first walked outside her Manhattan apartment and set up a folding table with a sign reading "The Grammar Table," it took about 30 seconds to get her first visitor. Everyone had a question for her. The Grammar Table was such a hit - attracting the attention of The New York Times, NPR, and CBS Evening News - that Ellen soon hit the road, travelling across the U.S. to answer questions from students, retired editors, bickering couples, and anyone else who uses words in this world.

In Rebel with a Clause, Jovin shares the heartwarming and humorous stories of the people she meets, and what is most on their minds, grammatically speaking - from the Oxford comma to the places prepositions can go, the likely lifespan of 'whom,' semicolonphobia, and so much more.

Rebel with a Clause combines the qualities of a first-class work of reference with the laugh-out-loud pleasure of a good read. Punctuated with linguistic debates from tiny towns to crowded cities, this grammar romp will delight anyone wishing to polish their prose or revel in our age-old, universal fascination with language.

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Praise for Rebel with a Clause: Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian

  • The history of language has never seen anything like this. Ellen's mobile grammar travelogue, presented with an engaging humour and humility, allows us an intimate encounter with American thoughts and feelings about the subject that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the way English works - which means all of us. Reality television? This is reality grammar.

  • "Charming and judicious commentary which affirms what language lovers have always known: prescriptive grammar is not a set of commandments etched on stone tablets but an opportunity for reflection on clarity, style, and consistency-not to mention good fun."

  • In Rebel with a Clause, Ellen Jovin has given us a street-level view of English grammar and usage, engaging with kids, drunks, cranks, and dads all over this land. From Verdi Square to Venice Beach, Fargo to New Orleans, she brings organization and clarity to every subject she lights on, presiding over the Grammar Table with tact, humility, and irrepressible playfulness. A fresh and democratic take on language by a gifted teacher.

  • Ellen Jovin is, literally, a public grammarian, doling out advice on myriad fine points of language from behind a folding table she first set up in Manhattan's Verdi Park. In Rebel with a Clause, Jovin shares not only her story as an itinerant language maven but so much first-rate wisdom about everything from the effective wielding of commas to differentiating between 'effect' and 'affect' (to say nothing of 'who' and 'whom') that you may not realize till you finish the book that you've learned so much. And she does it with sweetness and an enviable generosity of spirit. She never hectors, never finger-points; she enlightens and illuminates. This is lovely work.

  • This is perhaps the most imaginative book ever written about grammar--essentially a series of autobiographical short stories in which the recurring character, Ellen Jovin, plays the educational, charming, and ever-patient protagonist. If you can't stop by her grammar table, stop and buy her book at your favorite bookshop.

  • Of all things a jolly grammar book! Curl up and finally take in those niceties of grammar that you always feel like you haven't paid quite enough attention to. Jovin has the gift of making grammar feel like charcuterie instead of medicine - and along the way you also get invaluable randomnesses such as that there are people in Ohio who pronounce "vigil" as "vid-ju-al"!

  • Charming tales of grammatical passion.

  • This Grammar Guru will solve the world's problems.

  • Or, at least, help you figure out when to use an Oxford comma. - The New York Times

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Ellen Jovin

Ellen Jovin is a co-founder and principal of Syntaxis, a communication skills training firm based in New York City. She has taught business writing, email etiquette, and grammar at companies throughout the U.S. in all major industries. Previously she worked as a professional writer, creating marketing and advertising materials for corporate clients, and before that as a freelance journalist specializing in business, finance, and technology. Ellen earned a B.A. in German studies from Harvard University and an M.A. in comparative literature from UCLA.

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