May I Quote You on That?: A Guide to Grammar and Usage
by Stephen Spector
Oxford University Press
ISBN 9780190215286

We all use language in different ways, depending on the situations we find ourselves in. In formal contexts we are usually expected to use a formal level of Standard English-the English codified in grammars, usage guides, and dictionaries.

In May I Quote You on That? Stephen Spector offers a new approach to learning Standard English grammar and usage. The product of Spector’s forty years of teaching courses on the English language, this book makes the conventions of formal writing and speech easier and more enjoyable to learn than traditional approaches usually do. Each lesson begins with humorous, interesting, or instructive illustrative quotations from writers, celebrities, and historical figures. Mark Twain appears alongside Winston Churchill, Yogi Berra, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Oprah, Lady Gaga, and many others. These quotations allow readers to infer the rules and word meanings from context. And if they stick in readers’ memory, they can serve as models for the rules they exemplify. The lessons then offer short essays, written in a conversational style, on the history of the rules or the words being discussed. But because English is constantly changing, the essays offer not only the traditional rules of Standard English, but also the current opinions of usage panelists, stylists, and language specialists. When rules are controversial, Spector offers advice about stylistic choices.

The book is aimed at those who are applying to college, taking the SAT, or writing a job application, an essay, or anything else that requires clear and effective communication. The product of Spector’s forty years of teaching courses on the English language, this lively, humorous book is for anyone who wants to learn how to write well, and enjoy themselves in the process.


My review: 4/ 5

I loved the whole concept of the book – using quotes to make points about grammar and usage. The quotes are very appropriate and the manner in which language rules are explained is very well done. Also, to give readers a better understanding of the rules, Spector has given the history behind them.

For example, looking at the words Alternate or Alternative, the author uses a few quotes including this one : ‘Men and women do behave wisely, once all other alternatives have been exhausted.’

He says that there is often confusion about whether to use ‘alternate’ or ‘alternative’ and explains the traditional difference – alternate: something that happens/appears by turns and alternative: having a choice. However, he explains, that since the 1940s, Americans have used the word ‘alternate’ to refer to choice and hence are often confused. The author then goes on to explain the best usage.

May I Quote You On That makes a good addition to a writer’s collection of reference books.

may i quote you on that


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Published by corinnerodrigues

A lover of words. A self-acceptance blogger. A blogging coach. A book reviewer. A woman happily journeying through midlife, moving from self-improvement to self-acceptance and enjoying being herself. Corinne writes at Everyday Gyaan, reviews fiction at and encourages writers and bloggers at Write Tribe and offers offline coaching to writers and bloggers at The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India.