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What prescriptive site, style guide, or book would you recommend most highly to a "semi" native speaker looking to perfect his English according to, in your opinion, the most sophisticated standards? The more systematized and technical its explanations the better, as the "learner" is a bit on the autistic side.

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I haven't seen the Burchfield Fowler's, but the older 1965 one is a treat. Much of it was outdated even for its time, and it leans toward UK English, but the analyses are intricate enough for the most autistic of wordsmiths and are entertaining even when they are only slightly applicable to modern writing or you don't agree with them. A good basic book is The Elements of Style. For US English, The Chicago Manual of Style is indispensable for typography and punctuation, although the exact style will depend on what you are writing and may differ from this.

There is no one authoritative book on grammar, usage or style. You have to read the guides with judgment and combine what you read. The best source for all this is the immense body of edited written work.

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lOvVraTESsS1110The more systematized and technical its explanations the better, as the "learner" is a bit on the autistic side.

This is kind of vague. I'll try to explain what I mean here.


My English is natural enough; it certainly passes as native-level. I know good and bad English when I see it, and I have good comprehension. But at times, for whatever reason, producing good English myself can be like pulling teeth. Sometimes I struggle to produce correct/natural English regardless of the complexity of the thought I am trying to express or my level of knowledge about the subject. While by no means all native speakers have perfect English, I don't think most are burdened by this particular impairment. I hate the term, because it is often misused/misunderstood and has negative connotations, but this might be in large part due to autism (as well as to other factors I will not go into detail here, but alluded to in my vague description of myself as a "semi" native speaker). But my autism also one of my strengths, so I reason that if I can't acquire mastery of the language through mere exposure to it, maybe I can do so by learning it like a machine. Perhaps I'm not necessarily looking for a prescriptive grammar for this purpose, but the idea came to mind because the descriptive grammars I have read (A Student's Introduction to English Grammar and parts of CGEL), though very machine-like, have helped only little in this regard.


This may not be the best forum to ask this kind of question, on reflection.

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lOvVraTESsS1110maybe I can do so by learning it like a machine.

Google has tried that. Their "google translate" is pretty good, as far as machine translation goes, but it is imperfect, as any native speaker will aver.

lOvVraTESsS1110(A Student's Introduction to English Grammar and parts of CGEL), though very machine-like, have helped only little in this regard.

I can agree with you wholeheartedly.

Linguists have long argued prescriptive versus descriptive approaches, but I think most have concluded that language is just too dynamic, organic and elusive to be subjected to a mechanical treatment.

lOvVraTESsS1110producing good English myself can be like pulling teeth.

Even for native speakers, expressing our thoughts precisely and elegantly 100% of the time is impossible. Give yourself some slack.

Define your goals. Is it everyday, commonplace conversation or literary excellence?
If you know your goals, then you can devise a plan to achieving them.