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I am just beginning to read book reviews in Japanese, starting with this one at 小説すばる. I'm noticing that quite often the kanji 書 appears by itself, in phrases like:

書の内容

幅広いジャンルの書

さまざまな書に敬意を払い

and the like. The dictionaries I've found are not clear as to whether in this usage it would be pronounced しょ / ふみ / かき / がき (different possibilities I have found).

Any thoughts on what is correct here? Also, is it something used this way only in written language? In real life would you just say 本の内容 etc.?

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In every one of your three examples, 「書」 is read 「しょ」. Read it differently in any one of those and you will sound just "wronger" than you want to.

Formal/Technical vs. Informal/Non-Technical:

Brush Calligraphy: [書]{しょ}・[書道]{しょどう} vs. [習字]{しゅうじ}

Books: [書]{しょ}・[書籍]{しょせき}・[書物]{しょもつ} vs. [本]{ほん}

Letters: [書]{しょ}・[書簡]{しょかん} vs. [手紙]{てがみ}

For the 「ふみ」 reading, we have 「[書読]{ふみよ}み」, which means "scholar", but in schools, you will learn to write it as 「文読み」 for the same reading.

The 「かき」/「がき」 readings will only be found as part of words such as 「お[品書]{しながき}」= "menu", 「[手書]{てがき}」 = "hand-writing", etc.

"Also, is it something used this way only in written language? In real life would you just say [本]{ほん}の[内容]{ないよう} etc.?"

Generally speaking, yes, but perhaps not exclusively so because "daily language" is different for everyone. Though highly unlikely, there might be people out there who use 「書」 every time he refers to a book.

  • As a non-native speaker who interacts with a lot of academic Japanese, I can vouch that for non-native speakers using things like [書]{しょ} in daily life makes one harder to understand for native speakers. – virmaior May 19 '16 at 1:22

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