Book Review: A World Without “Whom”, by Emmy J Favilla

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Emmy J Favilla is the former global Copy Editor for Buzzfeed and authored their original Style Guide. Buzzfeed, founded in 2006, is an online news and entertainment company, mixing serious news with the stupid or cute and cuddly viz, lots of animal pictures. With over 12 million subscribers and 10 billion-plus views it is clearly a challenge for traditional media as everyone vies for web users’ attention.

The Buzzfeed mix of content is maintained in this book. The title reflects just one of the many changes in language and usage which have been driven by the less formal writing/speaking style across the net, social media, email and text messages. Favilla argues “whom” sounds formal and pretentious and isn’t used by most people when speaking and a more natural conversational style is what has evolved across the internet.

The author is not an academic or a lexicographer but has a keen interest in language, how it changes and is used in the art of communication. She has widely researched her topic and provides chapter notes, the Buzzfeed Style Guide word list and an index, plus some fun quizzes with obscure words and emojis – yet another way language is changing.

Much of what Favilla has to say is common sense. Take the old adage of not starting a sentence with a conjunction – you can start a sentence with whatever you like: “They’re words, not weapons” (page 136). Or, (see what I did there, for emphasis) ending one with a preposition. How often do you keep this rule by asking: “From where are you?” (page 137).

A World Without “Whom” is a useful book for anyone who has ambitions to be any kind of writer. While the overall tone of the book is light-hearted, the reader is always aware that the overarching golden rules Favilla wants writers to always use include: being respectful to one’s audience; using inclusive language, such as ‘wheelchair user’ rather than ‘confined to a wheelchair’; gender neutral language; and presenting the information accurately and clearly.

The rest is all down to personal choice.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  8

Distributed by: Bloomsbury Australia
Released: December 2017
RRP: $24.99

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Informative

A useful book for anyone who has ambitions to be any kind of writer. Much of what Favilla has to say is common sense, talking about how language changes and is used in the art of communication.

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