In January 2017, a totally new kind of grammar book came on the market:
The Joy of Syntax & the Zen of Grammar Practice is an innovative grammar-reading-writing-thinking book that transforms the study of grammar from a chore into an empowering, colorful, and joyful experience.
The book argues that grammar is both enjoyable and important, that it is, in fact, the very essence of language.
I originally wrote the book for English Majors, Creative Writing Majors, and English teachers.
I have found that it’s also interesting for anyone who needs to write for a living and for anyone else who loves language and wants to think about how language works.
All example sentences, and there are very many, are printed in color and with lots of space for thinking and taking notes around them. I developed a color-parsing method that leads people away from confusing and contradictory nomenclature right to the essence of sentences. The colors chosen are those of the average highlighters available at your local office supplies store because I want people to apply what they learn from the book to their own reading and writing.
The book consists of four parts and an appendix. Part I lucidly, concisely, and joyfully presents all of English syntax in color. Part II explains the basics of style. I show how all styles can be explained and understood in terms of words brought into relationships with each other with the help of the grammar elements that we made friends with in Part I. In Part III, I present our new syntactic friends in action. I show how great writers have used them to weave their wonderful art. Part IV offers summarizing overviews of our new syntactic friends. The Appendix contains helpful information about words, parts of speech, and tenses – items and topics that are very important but are not part of the grand scheme of the book itself.
When E. E. Cummings talks about “the deepest secret nobody knows,” he is talking about love and how love keeps the world, the cosmos even, from falling apart. Here is another “deepest secret nobody knows”: Studying grammar can be very enjoyable and life-enriching, and it is vital for every human earthling who wants to think and vote. Why is studying grammar important? Because language is all-powerful and because language is controlled by grammar — by syntax, to be more precise.
Although syntax is at the heart of all that matters in human affairs, this book doesn’t want to be (nor can it be) a definitive study of English syntax. Nor does it want to reveal “truth.” Instead, the book invites you to go on a journey, to enter a process, to become aware of your dynamic relationship with language and life.
While this book is an invitation to a journey, it’s also a snapshot view of an ongoing dance. And it’s a hands-on map of English syntax, a collection of overviews of many important syntactic structures, and a bridge connecting basic grammar with reading, perceiving, thinking, feeling, writing, real life, literature — and joy. The book wants to make the topics of syntax and style accessible and enjoyable to whoever wants to spend time with them.
Friderike designed a color-parsing method that can be a helpful and enjoyable tool for analyzing both the simplest and the most complex of sentences and styles. This method helps join intuitive, creative, and cognitive processes, making it easier for us to sort out what’s happening in sentences and texts and what kinds of reading they require from us. It is suited to meet the needs of beginners and pros.
The book was designed as a one-semester course, which takes the reader from basic sentences that are as easy as “I love you” to the complexities of E.E. Cummings and Faulkner.