Jonathan Russell Clark at The Vulture:
The reason we pay happily for these manuals is straightforward, if a little sad. We’ve been convinced that we need them — that without them, we’d be lost. Readers aren’t drawn to in-depth arguments on punctuation and conjugation for the sheer fun of it; they’re sold on the promise of progress, of betterment. These books benefit from the dire misconception that they are for everyday people, when, in fact, they’re for editors and educators.
Take this year’s Dreyer’s English, whose jacket description reads in part, “We all write, all the time: blogs, books, emails. Lot and lots of emails. And we all want to write better.” Even if we accept the idea that we all (or most of us) want to become clearer and more interesting writers, is grammar truly the key to such improvements?
No, it’s not.