Good Old Days Ahead, Right Behind You

Henry Watson Fowler (March 10, 1858 – December 26, 1933)

The Gad About Town

In 1926, Henry Watson Fowler published “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage,” a book that has remained in print ever since. (The first edition and the second edition use Fowler’s sentences; the third edition, which was published in 1996, is a substantial rewriting of the classic and uses the Fowler name as a form of brand.) Fowler’s book is not a dictionary of definitions, like Johnson’s or Webster’s, it is a usage dictionary, an instructional manual for better using this beautiful tool we have devised called the English language.

Its entries give instructions on pronunciation, offer the pros and cons of employing a variety of idiomatic expressions, and argue again and again for simplicity in expression. Many style guides have followed—the MLA, the AP, the Chicago Manual—and each one is more useful in answering day-to-day questions about one’s writing than is Fowler but none is as entertaining as…

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