Fowler's Modern English Usage, often referred to simply as Fowler, is the definitive style guide to British English usage. Fowler covers in detail many vexed issues of usage, from proper plurals and literary techniques to distinctions between similar words and the use of foreign terms.

Henry W. Fowler concentrated on British usage, and set the standard for all usage books to follow. Fowler's first edition of 1926 remained in print for many years, but more recent editions have updated the book.

Fowler's remark on the split infinitive is well-known:

"The English-speaking world may be divided into those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is, those who don't know, but care very much, those who know and approve, those who know and condemn, and those who know and distinguish."

Fowler concludes that split infinitives should not attract as much attention as they do, and says that they are indeed sometimes the best way to express one's meaning. See the split infinitive article for further discussion.

Only the first edition of the book was completely Fowler's. The second edition was a revision by Sir Ernest Gowers and the third edition is in fact a complete rewrite by Robert Burchfield.

  • First edition, 1926 (reprinted in 2003, see References below)
  • 2nd  edition, 1965
  • 3rd   edition, 1996 (The New Fowler's Modern English Usage)

See also:

Related books


  • Fowler, Henry; Winchester, Simon (introduction) (2003 reprint). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (Oxford Language Classics Series). Oxford Press. ISBN 0198605064.
  • Burchfield, R. W. (Editor); Fowler, H. W. (1996). The New Fowler's Modern English Usage. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198691262.