Book of the Month, June 2024 – The King’s English

Cover of grammar book The King's English

For June’s Book of the Month I have chosen The King’s English by H W Fowler and F G Fowler, first published in 1906 and still available. The version I own is the 1975 printing of the 1973 third edition, published as a paperback by Oxford University Press. A free online copy of the text of the first edition can be found at The King’s English – Wikisource, the free online library. Henry Fowler (1858 to 1933) was an English teacher who contributed to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, and his brother George (1871 to 1918) was a writer on English language and usage.

The King’s English is a reference work giving guidance about writing in English, with the content set out in chapters and articles rather than in dictionary form. Part 1 covers chapters on Vocabulary, Syntax, Airs and Graces, and Punctuation. Part II covers sections on Euphony, Quotation, Grammar, Meaning, Ambiguity, and Style. The points covered are delivered with a dry wit and illustrated with lots of examples from published books. While some of the information would be regarded as dated now, this reference work is still relevant as it can help readers consider their own approaches to different aspects of writing.

I bought my copy early on in my writing career because I knew I needed to improve my writing style. I found the book such a fun text to read that I read it from cover to cover – even though it exposed a lot of my own writing faults. It was comforting to know that I shared writing faults with Dickens, Emerson and Carlyle – and that while I was still relatively unpublished, their faults had been frozen for all time in print!

This book definitely helped me improve my writing in the best possible way, by teaching about grammar, syntax and style with humour. It is still a great book to dip into from time to time, to try to prevent some of those old bad habits creeping into my writing again.

So there we have it, June’s Book of the Month! Be sure to check back in July when I’ll be revealing another must read.

Maggie x


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