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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $52.50

Hardback 928 pp.
135 mm x 216 mm



Publication date:
April 2015

Imprint: OUP UK

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Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage

Fourth Edition

Edited by Jeremy Butterfield

Why literally shouldn't be taken literally.

Why Americans think home in on something is a mistake and Brits think hone in is.

Is it OK to spell OK okay?

What's wrong with hence why?

Was Alanis Morrisette ever ironic?

Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage is the world-famous guide to English usage, loved and used by writers, editors, and anyone who values correct English since it first appeared in 1926. Fowler's gives comprehensive and practical advice on complex points of grammar, syntax, punctuation, style, and word choice.

Now enlarged and completely revised to reflect English usage in the 21st century, it provides a crystal-clear, authoritative picture of the English we use, while illuminating scores of usage questions old and new.

International in scope, it gives in-depth coverage of both British and American English usage issues, with reference also to the English of Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. The thousands of authentic examples in the book vividly demonstrate how modern writers tackls debated usage issues. They come on the one hand from established literary figures such as Chinua Achebe, Peter Ackroyd, Raymond Carver, Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter, and Vikram Seth. On the other, they are drawn from a vast range of newspapers, journals, books, broadcast material, websites, and other digital sources from across the globe, and include references to topical personalities such as Stephen Fry, Prince Harry, Jeremy Paxman, and Wayne Rooney.

Based on the evidence and research of the Oxford Dictionaries Programme, this is the most comprehensive and authoritative guide to usage available.

Readership : Everyone who needs authoritative, comprehensive, and reasoned guidance on English usage: journalists, broadcasters, authors, academics, high-level English teachers, English-language learners, philologists, editors, and general readers with an interest in the correct usage of English.


  • Review from previous edition: "Full of lucid advice"

    --Daily Express

  • "[Fowler's Modern English Usage] offers impeccable advice."

    --The Times 15/12/2007

  • "Compared with the liberalism of other grammars, Burchfield's englightened pedantry is a sheer joy to read and consult."

    --The Independent

  • "Burchfield, in his new edition, has succeeded admirably in producing a sensible, practical, up-to-date, sometimes controversial, and altogether excellent guide to English usage"

    --Manchester Evening News

  • "To consult Fowler is to consult the oracle. Those of us who get worked up about English can turn to Fowler: he smoothes one's fevered brow."

    --Lynne Truss, The Guardian

  • "If the good and truthful use of language matters ... then Fowler was more than the harmless drudge of Johnson's phrase and more than a great English eccentric. He was a hero."

    --The Spectator

  • "The Dictionary on the whole speaks about the extraordinary skill and expertise of Fowler as a lexicographer and linguist."

    --The Huffington Post

  • "Some care about getting English right; others don't. For those who do, there is a higher authority, a sacred book, that offers guidance through our grammatical vale of tears. Its full title is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage"

    --The New York Times

Preface to the Fourth Edition
Dedication, 1926
Key to the Pronunciation
Abbreviations and Symbols
Bibliographical Abbreviations
A to Z

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Jeremy Butterfield is an OUP author, language expert, writer, and lexicographer. For many years he worked in senior editorial positions in Collins Dictionaries. He is the author of the popular book on the English language, Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare (2009), as well as the Oxford A-Z of English Usage (2013). Robert Burchfield (1923-2004) was born in Wangannui, New Zealand. He edited the third and the revised third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage. His distinguished lexicographical career included a number of key publications: The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1966, with C. T. Onions and G. W. S. Friedrichsen) and The English Language (1985). Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933) worked as a teacher and freelance writer before going to Guernsey to form a remarkably successful writing partnership with his brother Francis. Most notably, the Fowler brothers wrote The King's English, and compiled the first edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1911). Henry Fowler finished the Pocket Oxford Dictionary in 1924, and Modern English Usage, which made him a household name, in 1926.

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Special Features

  • Expert advice on thousands of issues of grammar, style, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary.
  • Major new edition of Fowler's indispensable dictionary, the most trusted and respected English usage guide.
  • Completely revised and updated to reflect current English and concerns about usage.
  • Contains detailed explanations and clear recommendations to help readers make informed choices.
  • Thousands of example sentences illustrate the issues discussed
  • Draws on Oxford's unrivalled dictionary research and language monitoring
New to this Edition
  • Major new edition of Fowler's indispensable dictionary, the most trusted and respected English usage guide.
  • Completely revised and updated to reflect usage in the twenty-first century.
  • Draws on gigantic and unique database of modern, international English, the Oxford English Corpus.
  • Many new entries, including ageism, angsty, at this moment in time, blog, bullet points, challenging, dominatrix, double whammy, and many more.