A World Without “Whom” by Emmy J. Favilla
Best for: People who enjoy words. People interested in how language use has changed since the internet.
In a nutshell: Buzzfeed Copy Chief shares her perspective on language use for online writing.
Line that sticks with me: “Shakespeare used the singular they, as did a gaggle of other writers, including Jane Austen and Geoffrey Chaucer, as long ago as the 1300s. This is not a new trend, people!” (p 219)
Why I chose it: I love words and writing.
Review: A couple of years ago you might recall seeing stories about the “style guide for the internet.” Ms. Favilla was responsible for that, as she compiles and updates the BuzzFeed style guide. And while it only technically covers copy written for BuzzFeed, what it includes has likely been adopted by many writers of online content.
Ms. Favilla is a fun, talented writer. She makes topics that might be dry in less talented hand interesting and lively. Her perspective is that language is alive, and that to better communicate with each other we should be adapting to those changes. Some such changes will be obvious to you, but others might not be as apparent until you think about them. She has a great section on writing about sensitive topics “How to Not Be a Jerk,” which only has one area that I would disagree with – she says one should say “people with disabilities,” and I know there is disagreement in disability communities about whether that or “disabled person” is preferable.
The book doesn’t just cover traditional language; it also discusses emoticons, emojis, and words that may or may not be ‘real.’ You know, the things that make up the internet.
While Ms. Favilla and I disagree strongly on the pronunciation of .gif (PEANUT BUTTER VERSION FOR THE WIN), I’m hard pressed to find anything else of major contention. While the book is long and not quite a quick read, it’s definitely worth it. It will be on my shelf as a reference for years to come.