Glad you’re still with me, grammar nerds. I picked up this book years ago while searching for a replacement copy of my beloved Strunk & White. The title caught my eye because hey, who doesn’t want a little sinning in their writing? As far as grammar books go, this is less of a reference book and more of a treatise on learning the rules in order to break them in the most delicious ways. Hale is an engaging and funny writer who grabs from a huge span of writing examples. Nothing is too high or low–the excerpts bounce from Shakespearean sonnets to rap lyrics and even wine-label copy with an ease and wit that keeps Hale from coming off as totally schizophrenic.
The book is set up into various parts of speech and concepts, with “Bones,” “Flesh,” “Cardinal Sins,” and “Carnal Pleasures” for each. It’s a good framework that eases new writers into concepts, provides solid and relatable examples, and then shows how the most inventive writers flout the rules for effect. As a writer and linguist who will always feel the pull between prescriptivist and descriptivist grammar, it was refreshing to see that some of the more arcane rules, such as “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition,” were rightly tossed out the damn window.
Even though there are probably rules about what students can and cannot read (there may be a few curse words in here, but probably fewer than five) I still recommend this book to every English teacher I know. I would have loved some of these examples when I was in high school. I noticed that the book was updated in 2013, but this one is still a complete treasure.