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Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?”

A Book Review: Grammar Despair by Carolyn Henderson

Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” provides a great resource for all writers. Henderson uses a conversational style to address common challenges in writing, using common sense ways to remember correctly written structures. For practice, she gives a number of examples of incorrect and correct grammar. In some cases she provides a “dumb ditty” to help reader to remember how to use the words.

While I may be one of those “uptight English teachers” that the author refers to on occasion, I still recommend this book to my writing students. Henderson does tell her readers that there are occasions when a writer must follow a criteria or writing style. We high school English teachers must prepare our students to follow the guidelines that college English professors and publishers require. However, Henderson does give the writer choices in some situations. On occasion, she explains why she chose one way or another to illustrate that formal writing differs from informal writing.

Henderson divides her chapters into three main categories: 1) Words that sound the same but are spelled (and used) differently; 2) Writing mechanics and 3) Things we didn’t worry about 150 years ago.

In the first category, she gives the reader simple ways to remember when to use it’s or its; you’re and your; they’re, their or there; well or will; then or than; two, to or too; finally are or our. These are the kinds of things that some people cannot seem to remember so having a quick reference is great!

Then, in the second category, Henderson gives the reader simple guidelines regarding capitalization, sentences, paragraphs, word choices as well as a discussion of the passive vs. active voice.

Finally, in the third category, she covers issues such as gender and online writing including writing e-mails and blogs. She cautions the writer that texting is not appropriate in every situation. Appropriately, she suggests that undue repetition of words may interfere with an otherwise clear message.

You may get to know Carolyn Henderson on her blog: She also works with her artist husband,


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