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Encyclopedia > Fowler's Modern English Usage

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Fowler's Modern English Usage

Fowler's Modern English Usage, often referred to simply as Fowler, is the definitive style guide to British English usage. Fowler covers in detail many vexed issues of usage, from proper plurals and literary techniques to distinctions between similar words and the use of foreign terms.

Henry W. Fowler concentrated on British usage, and set the standard for all usage books to follow. Fowler's first edition of 1926 remained in print for many years, but more recent editions have updated the book.

Fowler's remark on the split infinitive is well known:

"The English speaking world may be divided into those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is, those who don't know, but care very much, those who know and approve, those who know and condemn, and those who know and distinguish."

Fowler concludes that split infinitives should not attract as much attention as they do, and says that they are indeed sometimes the best way to express one's meaning. See the split infinitive article for further discussion.

Only the first edition of the book was by Fowler. Subsequent editions were edited by other writers.

  • First edition 1926.
  • 2nd ed 1954
  • 3rd ed 1996 (as The New Fowler's Modern English Usage)

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