If you are like me (I mean if you have an iDevice, are a logophile and have a vested interest in English regardless of whether or not it's your first language), you always look for accessible reference-oriented applications on the App Store. You might even cringe as soon as you notice moderate to serious accessibility issues in an app you just finished installing, and the very thought of asking Apple to refund your purchase, though simple and straightforward, might disgruntle you. However, the App Store hosts a cornucopia of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries and usage-oriented apps, and Apple's macrocosm treats us with unexpected surprises from time to time.
So what is this latest surprise?
I was literally witness to one of those exhilarating moments few days ago as I read, via a Google search, on a blog titled The American Editor that the so-called best English usage guide is on the App Store. Of course, the post wasn't new (from January 2017 in fact); however, such apps don't receive extensive media coverage like, say, games or certain high-profile applications. As such, I didn't know that Garner's Modern English Usage, 4th Edition can be grabbed from the App Store. In case you haven't heard about it, Garner's book is one of the best, if not the best, and the most up-to-date usage guide for the English language. According to a quote from Los Angeles Times -- as mentioned on the Amazon page I linked above,
Any writing guide published today must compete with the work of Bryan Garner, whose Dictionary of Modern American Usage set a new standard.
The quote refers to the book as Modern American Usage because the first three editions of the book had the phrase American Usage in them. But according to the Preface of the 4th Edition,
... Oxford University Press has decided to rename the book Garner’s Modern English Usage—using English instead of American. That change restores what had been the idea behind the first edition. The implied global emphasis of English makes more sense today than ever before, given the book’s broadly inclusive approach to World English, not just to American English and British English.
To cut a long story short, I checked Garner's Modern English Usage on the App Store, but neither its $24.99 price tag nor its absence of accessibility clues stymied me. I was bent on giving it a spin though it could have become a flop access-wise. Now -- and after a few days of using it on my iPhone X, I'm ecstatic I took the plunge as the program, titled the "GMEUApp," is pleasantly accessible. Yes, so far I haven't been able to figure out how to add entries to the Favorites list, and, oddly enough, in some windows the two-finger scrub gesture works whereas pressing the Back button doesn't. But these quibbles aside, for the first time over the past 20 years or so I've been able to actually use Garner's awesome work because using it in the form of an e-book, even if you scan and proofread the gargantuan title yourself, is simply out of the question.
What sets GMEU's app apart?
I also have this book in the form of a PDF file on my laptop, but finding entries there is so time-consuming and tedious that I rarely turn to it on Windows. On the contrary -- and because of the following taken from the app description, using the app on the iPhone is an absolute joy:
Highly acclaimed in its four print editions, Bryan A. Garner's Garner's Modern English Usage is now available on your iPhone and iPad. This extraordinary reference tool contains over 8,000 entries and essays that reflect usage lexicography at its finest. Designed with the mobile user in mind, Garner's Modern English Usage is searchable, eminently navigable, and fully citable.
* Easy-to-use search tools bring up words effortlessly
* Voice search finds what you're looking for without having to type
* Text is citable
* Favorites feature to create a custom list of words
* Usage quizzes test your knowledge with questions written by Bryan Garner
Even the Quiz section is accessible and I scored 9 out of 10 in the first quiz -- yea!
So how does it work, you might ask. If you open the GMEUApp, you'll get the folloing items on the first screen:
- Hamburger button, which acts as a Menu button. When pressed, it will display all of the app's capabilities
- Usage Guide heading
- Favorites button
- Search field, which opens an edit box
- Table index adjustable, from A to Z and Number sign
Tip: you can also move around here using the Heading option available from the Rotor. This way you can quickly jump around various letters of the alphabet, but the handy Search facility is, IMO, your best friend. Anyhow, if you press that Hamburger button I mentioned earlier, the following items will be added to the main window:
- Browse Usage Guide
- Linguistic Glossary
- Essay Entries
- Asterisks and Ratios Explained, quite useful indeed
- Pronunciation Guide
- Quick Editorial Guide
- Language-Change Index
- Preface to First Edition
- Preface to Fourth Edition
- Making Peace in Language Wars
- The Ongoing Tumult in English
- Select Bibliography
- GMEU & Its Author
Another benefit of using GMEU is that you get the page number at the end of each entry, meaning if you have the hard-cover book, you can easily locate that entry when desired. It's, however, worth mentioning that the app displays the button titled "Done" at the end of each entry several times. When pressed, they perform different tasks such as moving to the previous/next entry and, I guess, adding the current entry to the Favorites lists. It seems to me that the developer should alter the labels for these buttons.
Now what is next?
Well, the nerdy side of me wants to go grab the $31.99 Practical English Usage by Michael Swan -- another awesome Oxford title turned into an app. However, the fact that the app hasn't been updated since September 2016 disheartens me. Moreover -- and perhaps above all, the app is based on the 3rd Edition of the title not the 4th, and that, coupled with the app's unknown accessibility status, has stalled me at the moment.
In closing, if you consider yourself an English buff, don't waste a second and purchase Garner's Modern English Usage, 4th Edition as it'll shine on your lustrous iDevice.