An American Editor

July 2, 2015

Worth Noting: Fowler’s 4th Is Here

I know that many of my colleagues swear by Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 3rd edition. Although I own it and occasionally use it, the number 1 usage book for American English is Garner’s Modern American Usage, Third Edition.

But, as of this past June 1, Garner’s has some new competition — the updated fourth edition of Fowler: Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage edited by Jeremy Butterfield, or Fowler’s 4th.

I received my copy yesterday, so I am not yet ready to give an opinion, but I plan to use it each time I use my Garner’s 3rd. One of the things I like about Garner’s, which is lacking in Fowler’s 4th, is the “Language-Change Index,” which gives me a clue as to how usage is trending.

Both books are published by Oxford, so I suspect a new edition of Garner’s may be in process.

For those of you who are like me and “collect” usage guides, it is interesting not only to compare entries in current versions of the guides, but also to look at past editions and see how usage has evolved.

In any event, it is important for professional editors to remember that these are guides. Their opinion should weigh in your decision-making process, but should not dictate your decision. See, for example, “Editors & “Professional” Resources: A Questionable Reliance” and “The Makings of an Unprofessional Editor” for additional discussion.

Richard Adin, An American Editor



  1. Thanks for the heads-up!


    Comment by Kelsey Mitchener, editor — July 2, 2015 @ 7:08 am | Reply

  2. To be honest, I was disappointed with the new Fowler. My favourite is still Allen’s Pocket Fowler (actually quite a hefty book).


    Comment by amandachen24 — July 2, 2015 @ 7:13 am | Reply

    • Yes, Allen’s Pocket Fowler is a hefty book at nearly 700 pages (Fowler’s 4th comes it at 900 pages). Can you describe/explain the difference between the two Fowler books? I know that for American users, the Pocket Fowler‘s relies heavily on British usage (at least that is what the reviewer’s say), but I am not familiar with the book and would like to know more about it.


      Comment by americaneditor — July 2, 2015 @ 8:18 am | Reply

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