Friday, October 20, 2006

Words Fail Me!

What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing

Well I have been haunted with this idea for quite some time now. I came across this book in I happen to read it's editorial reviews, felt as though that I have discovered a real gud one!

Here are a few reviews of the book:

  • Patricia T. O'Conner's Words Fail Me is written in the same lighthearted tone as her snappy grammar guide, Woe Is I. This time out, O'Conner tackles the writer's art. "Good writing," she says, "is writing that works." This book is the perfect text for the novice writer who tends to gravitate toward comedic instructors. "Crummy spelling," says O'Conner, "is more noticeable than crummy anything else." Organizing your material "may be a pain in the butt, but it's thankless, too!" "Write as though you were addressing someone whose opinion you value, even if the reader is ... a stingy insurance company that won't pay for your tummy tuck." O'Conner's material isn't new--like many such books, Words Fail Me advocates the use of small words, fresh verbs, and only well-chosen modifiers--but rarely is a primer so amusing. And the clever titles strewn throughout--"Taking Leave of Your Tenses," "The It Parade"--provide added pleasure, particularly for anyone who knows how hard it can be to put a headline on a piece of writing. --Jane Steinberg

  • Patricia O'Conner's Words Fail Me presents so many practical insights into effective writing that I suspect it would be valuable to almost any writer. And there's a bonus: she has a great sense of humor. She debunks the faux pas fallacies that snobbishly tell us how not to write -- don't use contractions, don't start sentences with conjunctions, etc. And she tells us how these supposed `rules' came to be. Wisely, O'Conner's most important rule is this:
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    "Your first duty to the reader is to make sense. Everything else -- eloquence, beautiful images, catchy phrases, melodic and rhythmic language -- comes later, if at all. I'm all for artistry, but it's better to write something homely and clear than something lovely and unintelligible."
    I read quite a lot, mostly nonfiction (philosophy, reference, science, theology, and wilderness travel). Inevitably, reading compels me to write -- I've submitted more than fifty book reviews to this forum. Yet I'm never quite happy with my writing. This is not unusual. "Your favorite novel or history or memoir is just someone's last revision," says O'Conner.
    As a student I disliked studying the nuts and bolts of English. Words, their accuracy, economy, and artistry, interest me far more now, and this book is the first "how to write" text I have read. At the risk of belaboring the obvious (because good writing doesn't): it was a good choice.
    Highly recommended. - Wesley L Janssen
PS: I would, for sure try to get a copy for myself.

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