Oxford A–Z of English Usage

edited by Jeremy Butterfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 176 pp, £3.99 (pbk), ISBN 978 0 19 923153 9.

Reviewed by Michèle Clarke

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Up-to-date guidance on questions of English usage, based on an analysis of the Oxford English Corpus. I was pleased to note that they don't accept the commonly heard lay for lie, but they are increasingly accepting may for might. I still am unsure whether it is acceptable nowadays to use may in the sense of doctors trying to cover their backs: 'The drugs may be useful in certain patients.' I'm more for using could here.

This book didn't really help me in this instance, but I do know that rewriting authors' words becomes more and more difficult to justify if we use older published guides to English. A really useful little book to add to the shelf.

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