From the Errors of Others, by Rebecca Lyles
A lively, humorous debut compendium of communication “don’ts.”
In this highly readable debut, Lyles, a business-communication consultant with three decades of technical writing experience, documents the many misspellings, grammatical blunders, and ill-advised expressions that bedevil business writing and speech. The very short, self-contained essays make it easy to consume the book a few pages at a time. The author offers short chapters that specifically address public speaking, advertising, and wordplay, among other areas. Along the way, she covers a wide range of common errors, from the general (when to use “principle” or” principal,” for example) to the business-specific (how to create appropriate text for a presentation slide), to the everyday (examples of grammatically incorrect newspaper headlines). This multitude of examples is impressive enough, but the author’s keen observation are what lift the book above an ordinary collection of bloopers. Lyles has the ability to highlight the most egregious errors while also treating them with good humor, rather than snarky sarcasm. In “Telltale Signs,” for example, she refers to actual signs she’s seen and answers them with signs of her own. For example, she answers “Shirts and Shoes Must be Worn” with “But Your Pants Can Be Brand New” and “Prepare to Stop When Flashing” with “At Least Button Trench Coat.” Her take on online-dating is perceptive and hilarious; for instance, she says that when a man writes that he enjoys “Long walks on the beach…quiet evenings by the fire…candlelight dinners at home,” he really means “I’m cheap and I’ll never take you anywhere. And I expect you to cook.” Lyles is also sensitive to inflated speech patterns; she warns readers of potentially deceptive qualifiers, such as “To be perfectly honest” and “If you want to know the truth,” among others. This is an amusing, on-target collection, crafted in a way that makes it easy to laugh at one’s own shortcomings.
A clever, engaging, and delightful look at how people can be lax with the written and spoken word.