“I was feeling pretty smug about my word skills until I learned something right there on page 26 of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. I have been mispronouncing 'elegiac.' Even so, I didn't begrudge Norris for taking me on a delightful tour of the offices of The New Yorker, the history of Noah Webster and his dictionary descendents, the city of Cleveland, and the hyphen in Moby-Dick. Between You and Me is a sprightly -- not 'spritely,' thank you -- gambol in the fields of grammar, and I enjoyed every step.”
— David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN
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.