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Grammar in Enid Blyton : “ Jolly Good ! ” said Dick, “just wait till I get it !

Did you notice any glaring errors in this blog’s title? If you didn’t, then I can only assume you worked for Enid Blyton’s English publisher, Dean & Son Ltd, during the 1960s.

I’ve been reading my old Enid Blyton books to my children for several years now (I cannot bear the recent editions, with all references to ‘smacking’ removed, along with the names Dick and Fanny, which are, apparently, inappropriate for the American market). It is only since working as an editor that I’ve noticed substantial differences in punctuation between these editions and contemporary editing standards.

Apart from Enid Blyton’s constant use of exclamation marks (!), here are some of Dean & Son’s rather quaint punctuation and grammatical practices:

  • double quotation marks instead of single
  • a space between quotation marks and text
  • a space prior to (yes, that’s what I said!) and following question and exclamation marks.
  • ‘till’ instead of ‘until’
  • a double space after a full stop.

Because it is one of the most popular English-language authors (at least in the under-eight set), I would have expected Blyton’s grammar to be almost perfect. I’m not sure if this grammar and punctuation style was standard at the time of punctuation, or if it was Dean & Son’s House Style; I suspect Blyton’s preference for the exclamation mark was hers alone.

These obvious, and somewhat jarring, differences illustrate the development of editing styles and standards across place and over time. Today, Australian and British style prefers the single quotation mark and the single space after a full stop, leaving double marks and double spaces to those effuse Americans. Oxford Dictionaries Online ( states that British English spelling can use either ‘-ise’ or ‘ize’ for many verbs, although some must use the ‘-ise’ ending, and some end in ‘-yse’. Although commonly cited as British/Australian, the ‘-ize’ ending was used in Britain from the sixteenth century, and some British publications (such as The Times Literary Supplement) still use the ‘-ize’ ending today.

Do you feel like exclaiming, “ Goodness gracious me ! ” yet? Don’t despair! One editing priority is to retain internal consistency within a document. This way, if you do need to modify an American spelling or punctuation convention with the commonly used British/Australian one, you can always use the ‘Replace’ function in Microsoft Word.

Updated 29 April 2024