Need help with Garner's Modern Guide to American Usage (Non-native speaker)

Hello. This has to do with Garner's Modern American Usage. I am on a quest to see if I am perfect my non-native English so that I can write and publish. The problem is that my English is not consistently correct.



I recently read The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader's Perspective by George Gopen. It's a excellent book that teaches English Structure. What it doesn't teach is style and word choice which I have problems with. So I must improve. My goal is to get published and to do that my English has to work with the standards. That includes usage and style rules.



Did I turn to the right book I'll ask? My question has to do with asking how to use Garner's Modern American Usage. If so then that is what I will ask only for starters. For one, how does a non-native speaker of the English language go about using it? Even though it has a small dictionary it is 800 pages. I want to zero in and read it in a few days. I don't want to have problems reading it. I only want to remember what is important. So what are the most important topics? I know I am a non-native speaker but is there an easy approach to this by just showing me the topics I need? I am very new to this. I decided I'd go to an English forum when I found it on a Google search and I am thankful. So what topics should I read? Is there is a easy way for a non-native speaker to go about this? Is this the right book for a non-native speaker of English? My main problems are style and word choice.



Someone recently read a manuscript of mine and came off with these complaints. I thought I''d show this to give a bigger perspective of the problem in my writing. Can Garner's Modern Guide to American Usage also help with this?



Inconsistent Tense

Inaccurate word usage. I've explained this.

Skips in logic.
Void in time: Later on the paragraphs pass time that are utterly unexplained. So quickly without even the reader realizing.

ideas often conflict. Descriptions often conflict.



Thank you for the assistance and please help me.
Hi Claudio, welcome to EnglishForward!
Your written English is better than the written English of MANY native English speakers.
I don't know the book you're referring to, but it sounds like a good book, and worth reading. I don't think you should try to find shortcuts to learning. You never know what you don't know until you learn it :-) (In other words, you can't necessarily tell, or even guess at, the things you don't know, UNTIL you've learnt them.)

I will just comment on your message and general English rules.
I'm pretty fussy, so please don't worry, I'm just nitpicking :-)
claudioapolinarHello. This has to do with Garner's Modern American Usage.
When you write THIS, you mean THIS MESSAGE. That's pretty obvious, and in this context, it's fine, but you wouldn't say that in formal writing. You could say THIS MESSAGE... or THIS BOOK or THIS CHAPTER or THIS SENTENCE, but not just THIS. Small point.
claudioapolinarI am on a quest to see if I am perfect my non-native English so that I can write and publish.
That's beautifully written. There's one mistake though, it relates to "am perfect". You should say one of these two alternatives:
(a) "quest to see if I CAN perfect ..." where PERFECT is a transitive verb and is pronounced pur-FEKT, in other words you want to go through the process of PERFECTING (present tense transitive verb) your English, or MAKING it PERFECT (adjective), or
(b) "quest to MAKE my English PERFECT" where PERFECT is an adjective and is pronounced PURR-fikt. I think you meant to use (a).
claudioapolinarWhat it doesn't teach is style and word choice which I have problems with.
I would write "style and word choice, which ...", i.e. add a comma after CHOICE. This just adds a short pause, and partly separates the two parts of the sentence. The first part of the sentence explains what the book doesn't teach, and the second part connects "style and word choice" with "I have problems with".
You could also write "... style and word choice, AND this is what I have problems with", or various other rearrangements, but your wording is fine.
claudioapolinarMy goal is to get published and to do that my English has to work with the standards.
I would add a comma after PUBLISHED, for the same reason - it adds a brief pause and separation between the first and second parts of the sentence.
"WORK WITH the standards" is not idiomatic; I would say COMPLY WITH the standards, or FOLLOW the standards.
claudioapolinarThat includes usage and style rules.
I'd probably say "THIS includes ...", or merge this sentence into the one before: "... comply with the standards, which include usage and style rules".
claudioapolinarDid I turn to the right book I'll ask?
The question mark is in the wrong place, or is unnecessary. "I'll ask" is not the QUESTION, so the question mark shouldn't follow it. Also it should be "I ask" because you are asking it now, not at some time in the future.
A better choice would be "Did I turn to the right book, I wonder". You could also rephrase the sentence more like "I'm not sure if I have turned to the right book" or "I wonder if this book is what I need" or something more like that. These are all statements, and shouldn't have a question mark, even though you are (by implication) asking a question, and someone could answer it like a question - someone could reply "Yes, you've turned to the right book" or "No, you haven't ...".
Since it's not written as a question, it doesn't have a question mark. Other similar examples are "Am I right, I wonder", which doesn't have a question mark, even though the first part IS a question. The whole sentence becomes a RHETORICAL question - it's phrased (at least partly) as a question, but an answer is not necessarily expected. You COULD write "Is this the right book for me? I'm not sure." This is a normal question ("Is this the right book for me?), followed by a comment ("I'm not sure"). Again an answer isn't necessarily expected, so it's rhetorical, but the first part is worded as a direct question, so it should have a question mark. Stupid language huh :-)
claudioapolinarMy question has to do with asking how to use Garner's Modern American Usage. If so then that is what I will ask only for starters.
"My question has to do with asking ..." is very clumsy. You can simplify it to "I'm asking ..."
Also, "for starters" is a recognisably American expression, and some people don't like it. I would not ever use it in formal language. I would say "to start with" or "to begin with".
claudioapolinarFor one, how does a non-native speaker of the English language go about using it? Even though it has a small dictionary it is 800 pages. I want to zero in and read it in a few days. I don't want to have problems reading it. I only want to remember what is important. So what are the most important topics?
The most important topics for you to learn about are the topics you will need to know to improve your writing, the topics you haven't learnt fully, and the topics you don't know about. Oh, very funny, you say. I mean that no one can really tell you what you need to learn. You have to read the book, and when you read something you already knew, just say to yourself "yes, I knew that". When you read something you DIDN'T know, read it more carefully.
I don't think you should try to FINISH the book. I have several usage and style books and I would never say I've FINISHED them. I keep them to refer back to. I use the indexes a lot. The best way to learn a rule is to have a practical example where you have failed, and teach yourself the right way. These come up often, even for experienced English writers and speakers. Sometimes things "just don't sound right" (obviously this is hard for an ESL person to detect), or you don't know which word to use, or how to phrase the sentence, or someone criticises your work. Also, Microsoft Word seems to be pretty good at spotting grammatical errors, and will tell you the nature of the error it thinks you've made.

I recommend "Fowler's Modern English Usage" by Birchfield, Strunk and White's little book, and one or more good dictionaries. I like Chambers but Oxford is well-regarded, and for America there are probably many others. And of course a thesaurus is very useful for non-native speakers, since English has so many words that mean almost the same thing, and your writing will be greatly improved if your vocabulary is large and you can choose the most appropriate word for each situation. Read T C Boyle for some beautiful examples of word choice! (But you may need to keep a dictionary close by.) There are many other good writers but I don't usually read fiction and he's the only one I can name.
claudioapolinarI know I am a non-native speaker but is there an easy approach to this by just showing me the topics I need?
This sentence would be fine in unrehearsed speech, but it changes context part-way through.
Let's simplify it to "Is there an easy approach to this BY SHOWING ME some topics?". "Showing me some topics" is something someone could DO, but "Is there an easy approach to this" doesn't connect with this idea. Instead you should say
"Is there an easy approach to this, such as reading only the topics I need?", or better, "Is there an easy approach to this? For example, could I read only the topics I need to read?"
claudioapolinar I am very new to this. I decided I'd go to an English forum when I found it on a Google search and I am thankful. So what topics should I read? Is there is a easy way for a non-native speaker to go about this? Is this the right book for a non-native speaker of English? My main problems are style and word choice.
Those sentences are all good and correct. I tried to answer those questions above.
claudioapolinarSomeone recently read a manuscript of mine and came off with these complaints.
Should be "... came BACK with these complaints:" The colon introduces a list of items, which could be on separate lines, like a bulleted list, or just listed directly, with commas in between.
claudioapolinarI thought I''d show this to give a bigger perspective of the problem in my writing.
"the PROBLEMS WITH my writing"
claudioapolinarInconsistent Tense
Inaccurate word usage. I've explained this.
I'm sure that book would help with this, but you need someone to find the mistakes you've made, so you can relate the rule to a concrete case where it's used.
claudioapolinarSkips in logic. Void in time: Later on the paragraphs pass time that are utterly unexplained. So quickly without even the reader realizing.
ideas often conflict. Descriptions often conflict.
These errors are more in the general way you express your ideas, and it will be hard to fix them by remembering a set of rules. Maybe a good way to understand your mistake is to identify a few examples, and read through them a few times, and try to figure out what parts are not consistent with each other. Your first example could be your sentence above: "is there an easy approach to this by just showing me the topics I need?". This has a clear but subtle mistake. Maybe you can find a native English speaker to talk with you about it.
BTW don't try to learn correct English by reading comments on YouTube or Facebook. Most of them have SPG (spelling/punctuation/gammar) errors. Reading them will make your English WORSE!
I am sincerely greatful for the reply Krisblue. I know that you put a lot of effort into your response.

=( I am greatly dissapointed on what english books have to offer. Someone could be making serious money writing books for english learner's problems. There's a big market for that. That is especially true given all the english language learners and speakers we have in the world. I still wonder if there is a book out there for someone like me and as I have been looking. My last alternative is developmental english which I didn't know existed until recently. There's a long road ahead for that and of trepidation. I mean to say that I want to save time like any person would. This should make sense. Instead I have to guess and read a textbook which should be called the mamoth.

I think a bit behind what I am thinking should be explained. I eventually want to write a novel, and 6 months to learn developmental english is a lot of time. I think I will have to look for a accelerated course. There is some much that can be done in 6 months, that goes without not saying that English is a tough language to master.

In case anyone wanted to know besides Kris, developmetal english is generally taken by people who were raised in aN english speaking environment (especially a language speaking country) and have some difficulties with english. I was raised in the united states, and my english is not perfect. It has problems. Mainly it has to do with wirtten english almost entirely. I have no accent even.

So thanks Kris. I will read it slowly knowing that I have the thing like a sore tooth. In the meantime though that I am stuck with the book I will see if I can research a way to develop my english fast.

This problem is especially the case since I have diplomatic status and have six months to stay in the country. I know I shouldn't have said that but it is to better understand the situation. So what help I can get with a teacher is somewhat limited by time.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Ok I now think if I need a good book for my english problems. It should be on developmental english. I kind of regret not thinking of this earlier. Garner's book will help with style which is the most likely reason it was made for.
Ok I think I got this now. I will read a book on developmental english. Garner's book is on style, and I won't need it for now. It will be for when I learn the material. Thanks KrisBlue.