the guardian Fri 24 April 2009
Up-to-date enough to identify Morgan Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe's prime minister, this "concise guide to problems of English spelling and usage" has been thoroughly revised since its first appearance in 1991. Initially, Bryson's motivation seems to be a furious determination to expose error, exemplified by his splendidly grumpy insistence that "data is a plural, although this fact is widely disregarded". Yet this impression of the former Times subeditor scrawling "wrong!" all over his breakfast newspaper gradually fades in a book that is sane, lucid and unpedantic in its grammatical rulings. Throughout, Bryson is self-effacing, reining in the wit displayed in his travel writing, although he says the selection policy reflects his "interests, experiences and blind spots". The last appear to include much of popular culture, with no guidance, for instance, on spelling the Coen brothers, Mötley Crüe or Guus Hiddink. Perhaps footballers are missing because their careers are brief - but if so, why the comparative readiness to find room for female tennis players?