Mind Your Ps & Qs

Is there a little bit of a grumpy old man or woman in you? You know the type. A person prone to saying things like: “In my day we were polite”, “Does no one know how to write a sentence anymore?”, “I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids” (o.k. that one is from Scooby Doo, but you get the idea). If your inner grumpy person thinks things like proper etiquette, good grammar and an appreciation for an obscure typeface are a thing of the past, you are in for a surprise. There are actually a large number of new(ish) books that advocate for an appreciation of just these things. Clearly ‘kids today’ are going retro, with a new twist on things, of course. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at these tomes, all available at EPL.

You could be forgiven for thinking that concern about how to ‘act properly’ was reserved for state dinners, debutante dances and the filming of Downton Abbey. Etiquette, however, is making a surprising comeback with new takes on old manners.

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Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for a New World
This classic etiquette tome has been adapted for the modern age with advice on texting, tweeting, whether to cover up your tattoo for an interview, and advice on the ever elusive work dress code. If you find yourself walking down the aisle, there is also a new edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette to shield you from making a dreaded faux pas.

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon
Realizing that worrying about which fork to use is not high on many people’s priority list, the author instead addresses many of the conundrums that we currently face: When do you actually phone someone instead of texting or emailing? How do you tactfully tell the person in line to put their cellphone off speaker? And of course, when to friend and unfriend on Facebook.

Works Well with Others by Ross McCammon
This is a guide to successfully navigating workplace etiquette from a unique perspective: Those who feel ill at ease in the workplace to begin with. Drawing on his own experiences, the author gives helpful guidance on key work etiquette issues such as proper eye contact, when to interrupt and how to make successful small talk.

The idea of standard proper grammar is definitely alive and well and if you simply want to correct people, we have several traditional guides that will give you all the ammunition you need. If you want to delve a little deeper though, take a look at these more forgiving takes on grammar and its purpose.

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You’re Saying it Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse by Ross & Kathryn Petras
From ‘buck naked’ to ‘Uranus’ the authors not only let you know the correct pronunciation of each word or phrase, but they also give a fascinating backstory and context to its use. In addition, there are several funny and useful chapters on faking it like “How to Sound Philosophical” and “How to Sound Like a Fashionista” that can always come in handy.

Accidence Will Happen: A Recovering Pendant’s Guide to English Language and Style by Oliver Kamm
Once a grammar purist, the author persuasively argues that English is a language largely learned by instinct, ever-changing, and not confined to a set of absolutist rules. He cleverly proves his point in the second half of the book with an A to Z guide of ‘Usage Conundrums.’

Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language by Rosemarie Ostler
If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of why we speak as we do in the United States, then this is the book for you. From the revolutionary war to the present, the author chronicles the constant tension between ‘proper’ and ‘common’ English usage in the United States and how that usage is used to define individuals and groups.

Now that you know how to behave and speak properly, it is time to consider the letters you use to express yourself. While it might be surprising to some, there are actually a dedicated number of aficionados who enjoy exploring different typographies. Here at the library we have the books to please them.

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The Evolution of Type by Tony Seddon
Type historian, yes there is such a thing, Seddon examines 100 significant typefaces from Gutenberg all the way up to the latest digital typefaces. Each typeface gets a detailed history including its origins and the new features it introduced. Lots of helpful illustrations and definitions are included to encourage those new to the subject.

Typography: the Annual of the Type Directors Club
Jam packed with examples from books, magazines, logos, posters, web graphics and pretty much anything that is written on, this book presents the winning designs from the Type Directors Club annual competition which seeks out the best graphic design work in a given year. Even if graphic design and typography isn’t your thing, this is a beautiful book to browse through and enjoy.

Grafica della Strada: the Signs of Italy by Louise Fili
Another beautiful book in and of itself, this work brings together the author’s three decade-long project of photographing the unique and stylish signs of Italy. Whether made from stone tiles or gleaming chrome, the signs, advertising everything from restaurants to the way to the bathroom, are mesmerizing and a reflection of the many stylistic changes in the country itself.

So clearly, there is no reason to repress your inner grumpus. Everything old is new again when it comes to minding your Ps and Qs.

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