Fowler’s memorable preface

Yesterday was the birthday of Henry Watson Fowler, the man who wrote one of the most famous books on English language, reminded the Writer’s Almanac. I love Fowler’s Modern English Usage. The opening lines are as memorable as anything written by the finest English novelists.

Jane Austen and Charles Dickens wrote probably the most famous opening opening lines in English fiction.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” begins Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice.

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Fowler and Burchfield

Only Oxford University Press knows how many copies of Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by RW Burchfield has been sold. But one thing it is not — the Fowler.

Jonathan Yardley in his homage to the other classic stylebook, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, does not even mention it. He mentions only the earlier versions. Writing in the Washington Post, he says about The Elements of Style:

It is scarcely so encyclopedic as H.W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926, revised 1965 by Sir Ernest Gowers) but it is distinctly and distinctively American, and its brevity renders it both portable and accessible.

Even if he omitted the Burchfield Fowler by oversight, I think he was right.

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