Continuing the description of books on words listed in the introductory post, which you’ll find here.
Book 16 Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers:
Hardback, 182 pages, plus 7 blanks for notes. It was published by Oxford University Press in 1967; my version is the thirty-ninth edition, reprinted 1984, and I bought it new for a price I can’t recall. You can probably obtain a used copy at your local second-hand bookshop. But there’s a current version, running to 480 pages and costing just £10.47 in hardback, which I’ve now ordered as a replacement for my ancient copy!
I bought the book as a quick reference guide for those many irregulars that pepper the English language, waiting to catch out the unwary.
Opening randomly, at pages 82/83, I can give you a flavour of its contents and style. Page 82 starts with a continuation of an article from the previous page dealing with ‘Words Endling in -able and -ible’, and then goes on to explain the rules applying to ‘-able’.
‘Alteration of the stem (i) With some exceptions, words ending in silent -e lose the e when -able is added: adorable, excusable, indispensable.
Note, however, giveable, sizeable, and others in the list below; these are generally formed on words of one syllable in which loss of the final e would lead to ambiguity or excessive disguise of the root form.’
The page goes on to explain how -able is added to certain other spellings and gives the irregulars that fail to follow the general rule. Page 83 is in 3 columns and lists, alphabetically, the correct spellings for words from ‘abominable’ through to ‘penetrable’. That listing continues over the page and is followed by a second set of columns referring to words ending in -ible.
There is so much information given in this little book that I don’t know how writers and, especially, editors could get by without it. The new edition promises to be even more comprehensive and I imagine it will prove a worthwhile addition to my library. I’ll place it in this list when I get it and have had a chance to familiarise myself with it.
English is a complex language, made up of words from many countries, and borrows rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from those originating lands, which makes it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to the same students.