For Who the Bell Tolls

David Marsh

Of For Who the Bell Tolls, David Marsh writes, ‘It’s been a lifelong mission to create order out of chaos. This is the story of my quest for perfection.

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For Who the Bell Tolls is a book that explains the grammar that people really need to know, such as the fact that an apostrophe is the difference between a company that knows its s*** and a company that knows it’s s***, or the importance of capital letters to avoid ambiguity in such sentences as ‘I helped my Uncle Jack off his horse.’

David Marsh’s lifelong mission has been to create order out of chaos. For four decades, he has worked for newspapers, from the Sun to the Financial Times, from local weeklies that sold a few thousand copies to the Guardian, with its global readership of nine million, turning the sow’s ear of rough-and-ready reportage into a passable imitation of a silk purse.

The chaos might be sloppy syntax, a disregard for grammar or a fundamental misunderstanding of what grammar is. It could be an adherence to ‘rules’ that have no real basis and get in the way of fluent, unambiguous communication at the expense of ones that are actually useful. Clear, honest use of English has many enemies: politicians, business and marketing people, local authority and civil service jargonauts, rail companies, estate agents, academics . . . and some journalists. This is the book to help defeat them.

‘A splendid and, more importantly, sane book on English grammar.’ Mark Forsyth, author of The Etymologicon


David Marsh is the Production Editor of the Guardian. Follow his hugely popular Twitter tips @guardianstyle., David Marsh is the production editor of the Guardian, which he joined in 1996. He edits the newspaper’s style guide and Mind Your Language blog. He learned about grammar and spelling at Poynton County Primary School, Cheshire, and later attended King’s School, Macclesfield, Sheffield…

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