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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; 7.2.2010 edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567923852
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567923858
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one's appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word ("No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer") is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference." --Henry Hitchings, Wall Street Journal

"Not only educational but delightful." --David Mamet

"Every writer should have this book." --Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly and CEO of wordnik.com

"I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (praeteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it -- and as
only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it -- buy it and read it (epimone)." --Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style

An engaging and accessible guide, valuable to all who wish to improve their rhetorical skills or better appreciate the abilities of others. ----Library Journal

So, dear reader, I say it even if I say it myself -- get this book! No, really, get this book! Read clever Farnsworth, and read him again, and you may become more clever yourself. --Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Many things, from dictators to advertising, have made modern people suspicious of and cynical about language mobilized to move us. Fortunately, Ward Farnsworth's delightful swim in a sea of well-chosen words should help to rehabilitate the reputation of rhetoric." --George F. Will, syndicated columnist

From the Back Cover

Advance Praise for Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric:

Not only educational but delightful.
- David Mamet

I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (præteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it - and as only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it - buy it and read it (epimone).
- Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style

Many things, from dictators to advertising, have made modern people suspicious of and cynical about language mobilized to move us. Fortunately, Ward Farnsworth's delightful swim in a sea of well-chosen words should help to rehabilitate the reputation of rhetoric.
- George F. Will, syndicated columnist
Every writer should have this book.
- Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly
Ward Farnsworth's invaluable review of classical English rhetoric is not only a vital tool for aiding clear expression, but a timely reminder that, despite the confusion of the present technological age, human nature, and our ability to communicate in clear and often beautiful ways, are unchanging.
- Victor Davis Hanson, co-author of Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education & the Recovery of Greek Wisdom


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 28 customer reviews
This book now occupies a handy spot on my writer's shelf.
Jim K
If you want to learn or improve how to write and speak with flair, impact, and persuasiveness, buy and study this book.
V. R. Stull
Farnsworth will show you how to make your words rhythmic and beautiful.
Michael Warren

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric is a 'must' for any college-level linguistics library and for students interested in literary traditions and the English language. The basic elements of effective speaking and writing, patterns that lend to power, and tips for writers who would use the English language more effectively make for a fine tutorial illustrating invaluable rhetorical usage. History and modern perspectives blend in this outstanding guide!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There being few customer comments on this book so far, perhaps my thoughts can help other potential buyers (and readers).

I read a review of this book in the Wall Street Journal. I couldn't sample it online, and so bought it on faith, with a hope that it would be educational and enjoyable. I was not disappointed.

I've read several books on rhetoric, and I was familiar with some of the the devices described in this book. Where it excels is in having many examples of rhetoric in action. The author's commentary is concise and quite helpful.

I actually fell in love with this book from reading the introduction - a fine piece of writing on its own.

I read this book with colored pencils in hand, and I'm sure I'll refer to it in the future.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By rbnn on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By far the best description of rhetorical figures in English. The book is distinguished from other works by the vast repertoire of examples used to support each figure and especially by the detailed analysis of the nuances of use of particular figures.

For example, the chapter on praeteritio (saying things by not saying them), rather than giving a few examples, as is typical, has about fifty. These examples are subdivided into classes depending on exactly how the figure is used, "I will not speak of...", "Never mind that", "short-lived promise", "withheld details" and so on; and there is another classification of the various purposes of the figure - e.g. to gain credit for discretion, to enhance the force of, to limit debate, or for amusement. The author carefully describes how different variants of each figure support some particular point.

The examples are drawn mainly from nineteenth century sources, especially Dickens and Melville, although Churchill is frequently cited.

My only minor complaint about the book is that the title is slightly more general than the contents. The book is really about Classical English Rhetorical Figures, not Rhetoric generally. There is not much on structuring an argument generally, for instance, which is classically considered part of rhetoric.

Because of the multitude of interesting examples and the fine gradations in the use of each figure, the book is fun to read or leaf through. It is produced with great care and craftsmanship overall as well.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Puterbaugh on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You know, I'm an English major, and I was NEVER treated to a course on Rhetoric. Later on, I was a law student for a short time, and there was no course on Rhetoric.

Why? For centuries, Rhetoric was one of the main subjects students paid to study. Why did they pay? Because it would help them to win debates and arguments. As critics have complained for centuries, the art of Rhetoric can be (and has been) twisted into making the worse appear the better cause.

But, like the two-edged sword it is, Rhetoric can make the better cause appear the only cause, and the best cause. Look to Churchill's war-time speeches, or to Lincoln's unforgettable "...that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth." You could paraphrase that, perhaps, as "the republican system of government must survive" --- and it's instantly forgettable.

Rhetoric is the ancient and very effective way to make your words STICK in the minds of other people. If you're at all curious about this subject, you probably want to read this book.

Or:

"If there remains in you a drop of curiosity, one drop of that quest for knowledge which makes great men stand out from their fellows, if there remains in you even the slightest glimmer of interest in learning how to speak and persuade others, I suggest that the solution is evident." :-) Jazzed it up a little, didn't I?
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Michael Warren on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the lost art of expression, without the cheap vulgarity of modern times. Farnsworth will show you how to make your words rhythmic and beautiful. I seek to make my words beautiful because I seek to make my life beautiful, since words are what I live by. So whether you are simply appreciating the art of rhetoric, or planning to make rhetoric your art, you will find this book exceptional!

It is not just smothered in artistry, it is smothered in intelligence! It oozes with examples of that old world magnetism I sought in a work of this type, and drips with the unbridled romanticism and passion of a time when men were men, and women glad of it! It whispers, it shouts, and it thunders with revolutionaries and philosophers reborn! Buy this book for your heart, buy this book for your soul, BUY THIS BOOK!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By P. Troutman on February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a mostly charming oddity. As other reviewers note, it is eighteen chapters, each devoted to a particular rhetorical device given both its classical name and a definition (e.g., `Repetition at the Start: Anaphora'). Each chapter begins with a brief description of the technique and then gives variations on examples. This then is a tremendous resource for students in a number of fields: law, communications, politics, philosophy, etc. Anyone who either writes or merely wants to appreciate, good prose would likely enjoy reading this, even if it is in effect like reading a dictionary.

The oddity and charm largely comes from Farnsworth's writing style. He takes brevity to an absolute extreme. This allows him to say much more than you might expect given the amount of text. This can lead to moments when the writing feels clipped, but that is more than offset by a surprising benefit: this severe economy lends itself to a sly, droll sense of humor as very deadpan observations are slipped in with a straight face. (I marked several places, with an eye toward quoting them here, with bookmarks that my toddler very helpfully threw away.)

My one serious complaint is that as the book progresses the examples get harder and harder to follow. Farnsworth has a commitment to _classical_ rhetoric -- who, really, in the twenty-first century is named Farnsworth? -- and relies on unduly obscure examples in the later chapters that are not self-explanatory, let alone pack the punch of the earlier ones.
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