A Tribute to the Gregg Reference Manual

This is a “hurrah, we’ve been waiting for you” tribute to the new and final edition of The Gregg Reference Manual: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting Tribute Edition published in March of 2010. Its coming is bittersweet.

William A. Sabin, 1931-2009William A. Sabin (1931-2009) devoted his life to editing The Gregg Reference Manual (GRM). He finished reviewing the 11th Edition with his daughter, Margaret, from his hospital bed on December 29 and died two days later.

GRM has been the gatekeeper of business grammar for over 50 years. First published by John Robert Gregg in 1893 as Gregg Shorthand and later published as the Reference Manual for Stenographers and Typists in 1951, it became the choice of grammar reference used by typing pools—the last guard at the gate of correct business grammar—in corporate word processing departments. Bill Sabin became the sole author in the early 70s and changed the name to The Gregg Reference Manual, 5th Edition, in 1977.

As business professionals began using computers to type their own documents, The Gregg Reference Manual was passed from word processing departments to workstations across America. It has provided thoughtful analysis and clear direction on grammar usage ever since.

There are many good reasons for its popularity over the years:

  • It’s current with revised editions published every 5-6 years.
  • The Table of Contents, Index and page layout make it easy to use.
  • It’s clearly written with many examples as backup.
  • It’s a joy to read. Sabin made GRM his life-long, daily expression of love for grammar and usage. You can easily see this love in his prose throughout the book, but it’s especially visible in his passionate Essays on the Nature of Style. My favorites are “The Comma Trauma,” “The Plight of the Compound Adjective–Or Where Have All the Hyphens Gone?” and “The Semicolon; And Other Myths.”
  • It’s honest. Bill’s famous posture in matters of grammar: “It’s correct, lady, but it ain’t right.” While earning two degrees in English from Yale University, Bill was no pedantic follower of esoteric rules. He was great for laying out the rules and then encouraging writers to follow their instincts. What is more brilliant, beautiful and right?

I was not surprised to learn that Marie, his beloved wife of 50+ years, found one of Bill’s passwords soon after his death: “I love GRM.” How fitting! Millions of us have used GRM as a password into a world of succinct answers to sometimes confusing or controversial grammar issues.

Thank you, Mr. Sabin, for sharing your love of language and being a guiding light for all these years! We love you, too.
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