English usage is a subject as wide as the English language itself. By far the greater part of usage, however, raises no controversies and poses no problems for native speakers of English, just because it is their natural idiom. But there are certain limited areas --particular sounds, spellings, words, and constructions--about which there arises uncertainty, difficulty, or disagreement. The proper aim of a usage guide is to resolve these problems, rather than describe the whole of current usage. The Guide to English Usage has this aim. Within the limits just indicated, it offers guidance in as clear, concise, and systematic a manner as possible. In effecting its aims it makes use of five special features, explained below.
Layout. In the Guide the subject of usage is divided into four fields: word formation, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Each field is covered by a separate section of the book, and each of the four sections has its own alphabetical arrangement of entries. Each entry is headed by its title in bold type. All the words that share a particular kind of spelling, sound, or construction can therefore be treated together. This makes for both economy and comprehensiveness of treatment. Note that Pronunciation is in two parts: A deals with the pronunciation of particular letters, or groups of letters, while B is an alphabetical list of words whose pronunciation gives trouble. Explanation. The explanations given in each entry are intended to be simple and straightforward. Where the subject is inevitably slightly complicated, they begin by setting out familiar facts as a basis from which to untangle the complexities. The explanations take into account the approaches developed by modern linguistic analysis, but employ the traditional terms of grammar as much as possible.