How to Tell Fate from Destiny: And Other Skillful Word Distinctions
Author: Charles Harrington Elster
Length: 320 pages
I’ve written blog posts and recorded vlogs about writers who seem to rely on spell check to make sure they’re using the right word. Most of the time, they probably didn’t have an adequate editor to review their manuscript and thus didn’t check whether or not they were using the right word (even if the wrong word is spelled correctly). With the state of the printed word slipping year after year, a book like How to Tell Fate from Destiny should be a standard reference on any writer’s desk. Although, many of the words covered in this book are slowly changing due to idiomatic circumstances.
It is slightly encouraging to see examples provided in this book from reputable sources (like well-known newspapers and magazines) that still have these common errors in their writing. If anything, these examples prove how difficult it can be to distinguish the correct word usage over the more familiar word usage. Granted, many of the “correct” words don’t sound right to the common ear. However, those who want to show they are professional via their writing need to hold to these steadfast style guides and usage manuals (many of which are referenced throughout).
One of my qualms with this book is the large amount of semi-obscure vocabulary it covers. There were plenty of pages filled with words I had never seen and will likely never use in my writing. Perhaps this book is best used by those who consider themselves “literary” writers and thus end up using words that sound much loftier than they are. If anything, this book proves that professional writing abides by the idiom of “keep it simple, stupid.” Many of the Mark Twain quotes contained in this book say as much.
A useful resource for writers, especially those with a grandiloquent vocabulary, I give How to Tell Fate from Destiny 4.0 stars out of 5.