The Broadview Book of Common Errors in English. 3rd ed.


280 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-55111-205-1
DDC 428.2






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


This guide to grammar and usage attempts, in the author’s words, “to
resist the assumption that where the English language is concerned,
change implies debasement.” LePan’s judgments reflect his belief
that “one should continually strive for a balance between the value of
continuity in language and in usage, and the value of language as a
living thing.”

The book opens with the prefaces to all three editions. The main text
is divided into three parts. “Words” contains 14 chapters devoted to
such topics as dangling constructions, sequence of tenses, word
meanings, and difficulties relating to singular and plural, word order,
and pronouns. “Style, Structure, and Substance” includes chapters on
punctuation, direct and indirect speech, paragraphing, bias-free
language, metaphor, and informal English, while “Form” contains
chapters on spelling, writing about literature, and MLA and APA styles
of referencing. Rounding out the volume are two appendixes (one of which
is a guide to basic grammar), exercises that are cross referenced with
relevant entries in the main text, and a comprehensive index.

For this edition, chapters have been reorganized, the binding has been
changed from ring to lay-flat, 20 entries have been added, and the
chapters on MLA and APA styles and bias-free language have been
expanded. New to the edition are a list of variants (from Australia,
Canada, England, and the United States) and a chapter on the writing

LePan is flexible with respect to some matters (e.g., the split
infinitive, hopefully) and prescriptive with respect to others (he
rejects, for example, the use of loan as a variant for lend). Some of
his advice is questionable (e.g., his acceptance of the omitted s in Ray
Charles’ music), and his text is peppered with typos and errors in
punctuation: throughout the book, hyphens appear in adverbs ending in ly
(e.g., widely-adopted textbook). Finally, the author is disconcertingly
parsimonious in his use of the comma.

Quibbles aside, LePan is an engaging and generally judicious guide. His
book, which is designed “to accommodate the concerns of instructors at
the university level,” will also be of interest to nonacademic


LePan, Don., “The Broadview Book of Common Errors in English. 3rd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,