Collins complete writing guide

What a cracker! This fat little paperback has taught me more about good writing than all the How-to-write-good-English guides I’ve read put together. It’s not a new book, just a revised and updated edition of what was first The Times Writer’s Guide and then The Collins Good Writing Guide. It was good the first two rounds, and it’s even better now because it includes access to online and mobile functions.

The author, the late Graham King, developed a series of guides on English usage in the early 1990s. He wanted to help readers use English with accuracy and flair. Later these guides were published to present practical and user-friendly advice in one volume.

The guide is comprehensive, covering many aspects of grammar, punctuation and spelling. It also helps readers expand their vocabulary by inserting little quizzes: For example, which one is the correct meaning of the word homily? Is it a) a religious painting intended for the home; b) a moral lesson; or c) a coarse flour made from barley? I knew it’s not the flour, which is called hominy and usually made from maize and not from barley. It turned out to be the moral lesson, but I honestly didn’t know that.

The guide has some more gems: As luck would have it the avid reader is reminded that at the end of the day he or she should avoid cliches like the plague.

Also entertaining is the section on confusable words, such as immigrant and emigrant, plaintiff and plaintive, temporal and temporary.

Incorrect spellings make me cringe, but admittedly there are a lot of words that are notoriously difficult. What about diarrhoea, eczema, bureaucracy, anonymous, nauseous, and spontaneity? Unassailably unapproachable.

If you want to build meaningful and elegant sentences, if you want to say what you mean, if you want to widen your scope of expression – this book is your perfect companion. It’s an enjoyable read that will improve your English.


I started to write when I was about seven - and only minutes later I started to cook. Since then I've slightly refined techniques and discovered a few more words and ingredients, but not much else has changed: Words and food are my thread through Knossos. I was born in Germany where I lived and worked for more than 35 years. There I trained to be a cook, kindergarten teacher and graphic artist. In the 1980s I lived and worked in England and France. About a decade ago I started my latest stint right here in New Zealand, where I worked as a graphic artist, creator of bags and beanies, caterer, writer, baker and cook.