Pencils down
High school juniors everywhere, rejoice! At last, the SAT guide you've been waiting for has arrived. Hack the SAT: Secret Strategies and Sneaky Shortcuts That Can Raise Your Score Hundreds of Points won't send your score to 800 overnight, but it is the perfect test prep for smart students who want to do even better. A Harvard graduate who made his living catering to the sons and daughters of wealthy Manhattan parents, Eliot Schrefer offers his tried-and-true tips to students unable to foot tutoring bills of up to $1,000 per hour.

Straight-talking with an edge of sass (a sample header: "The Essay: Stop Being a Wimp," Hack the SAT has shockingly realistic expectations, in comparison to stodgier guides asking students to do practice tests religiously. A tear-out study schedule recommends that procrastinators just cracking the book the night before the test do some of the drills in the book, and then "pray if you are so inclined," yet makes sure to tell students beginning their SAT study a year pre-test time to "go relax for three months and come see me then." Schrefer offers the basics, including 11 essential grammar rules, and a thorough investigation of right triangles. But instead of providing yet another list of vocab words, he suggests subscribing to Vanity Fair for its "elevated vocabulary and . . . damn sexy photos," and has math problems that reference pop-culture icons like Gwen Stefani and Fergie. By far the best part of Hack the SAT is Schrefer's reassuring tone, like a big brother telling high school kids, "Study, but don't sweat it."

Bryson's eclectic lexicon
While working as a journalist and author (publishing, among others, The Lost Continent, A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid) Iowa native Bill Bryson has navigated the tricky terrain of linguistics both in America and abroad in England, where he fell in love with his wife, and still lives today. But you needn't be a jetsetter who must convert Fahrenheit to Celsius or miles to kilometers (though helpful tables are supplied), a writer or an editor to enjoy Bryson's eclectic collection of style points, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Anyone who loves words will be enchanted.

This invaluable resource will resolve the questions that keep you up at night. Case in point: When to use among and when to use between? Contrary to popular belief that between describes the relationship between two things, and that you must use among for more, Bryson rules that among is collective ("trade talks among the members of the European Community") while between is reciprocal ("a treaty between" nations).

So never again confuse perpetrate with perpetuate. (The former means "to perform," and the latter, "to prolong"). Surprise pals with the news that "Stormin'" Norman Schwarzkopf's middle initial "H" doesn't stand for anything at all. And don't ever use "First and foremost," as Bryson's only note there is "choose one." Perusing this book is like having an expert proofreader perched on your shoulder.

Credit your sources
The bastion of scholarly publishing etiquette, MLA has issued the third edition of its comprehensive style guide. Decidedly not for browsers, the MLA Style Manual has been, for the past quarter-century, academia's go-to guide for publishing propriety. In addition to valuable, if specific, information on source citation, the style guide also offers its (now seemingly age-old) advice on the proper way to abbreviate, punctuate, and employ italics. The foreword by Domna C. Stanton (a noted early modern French and feminist scholar who is also now the president of MLA) on the state of scholarly publishing is new, though many readers will certainly skip over that to the meat of the matter. Also new as are the valuable revisions to the sections on coping with our technological age. It's important advice from the gold standard in scholarly publishing dos and don'ts for any modern writer.

comments powered by Disqus