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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, smart, and practical writing advice
I've read a lot of writing books. I write for a living. I run a large website for writers and would-be writers. Casagrande's book is the freshest and funniest entry in this tired old niche in a long, long time. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences definitely goes on my recommended-reading list for...
Published on August 16, 2010 by MacAllister Stone

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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too "chatterboxy" in many places
In her efforts to be chatty, Casagrande becomes too "chatterboxy" in many places in the book.

For example, the "Introduction" is six pages. And in Chapter 1, she writes: "For years I made my living schlepping city council stories for a small community newspaper. Perhaps a third of the articles I wrote could have been begun with an identical opener: "On...
Published 20 months ago by Ewe Paik Leong


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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, smart, and practical writing advice, August 16, 2010
This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
I've read a lot of writing books. I write for a living. I run a large website for writers and would-be writers. Casagrande's book is the freshest and funniest entry in this tired old niche in a long, long time. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences definitely goes on my recommended-reading list for anyone wanting to improve their own writing.

Whether you want to craft the Great American Novel or just find a way to compose emails that people will actually read, this gem of a book is stuffed full of practical advice, in an extraordinarily accessible voice.
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86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous and entertaining tool for writers, July 27, 2010
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wanda d. (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
Ms. Casagrande has once again crafted a funny, educational and entertaining treatise on grammar that is approachable, useful and concise. After reading the first review posted here, I went to my local bookstore to check it out for myself. Maybe it's just me, but I often find that when someone takes the time to write a REALLY long negative review, I end up loving the writer. At the store, I chuckled out loud and read the whole first chapter of Casagrande's book before plunking down my cash and taking it home.

So, based on Mr. Fiske's keen and extremely meticulous analysis, I can only conclude that I am a not very bright, dull-minded, unintelligent, nine year old who is apparently also a non-native English speaker.

My parents will be very disappointed. They really believed that I graduated at the top of my class in college. Summa Cum Laude.
Damn.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for freshmen- and sophmore-level writers, August 3, 2010
This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
The author writes in an easy conversational style, so we're not learning grammar from a book so much as from a person. I'd say that's a wise choice, as grammar is a pretty dry subject. I read the whole book in one sitting. Although (not "While") explaining grammar inevitably hits things one already knows, it still spackled a few holes in my understanding, implied that breaking the rules sometimes is ok (the book's title is a comma splice), but most importantly, got me to read the thing to begin with.

If I were to improve the book, I would've left a little less unsaid. Such as, the reader occasionally needs to imagine the circumstances in which an example sentence would appear in order to properly understand the reasons for her edits.

Finally, the subtitle overstates the scope of the book. It teaches grammar. It will not teach prosody, scansion, or anything remotely close to poetry. So while the book promises how to make great sentences, it in fact only covers a particular aspect of sentence construction. You'll find nothing on rhythm, for instance.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Lessons, Hilariously Funny, August 13, 2010
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
On the LA to Newark flight, I made the little girl in seat 28F nervous. I kept laughing out loud as I read "It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences." In one sitting, my writing and my humor improved. This book would make a wonderful gift for any student heading off to college. The book will benefit anyone who wants to be a better writer. It's clear, precise, easy to understand and, best of all, an absolute delight to read because it's so dang funny.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the top five books I have read on sentence structure, November 16, 2012
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
I have been a lawyer for 30 years and written well over 1 million words in briefs, letters, memos, you name it. I still learned much from this book. Well worth the price and entertaining to boot!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recovering grammar-phobe finds relief, Thank you Ms. Casagrande, October 23, 2012
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
Honestly, I didn't know what a verb was until studying high school French (damned late 1960's "I'm OK, you're OK" elementary educational experiments) so the whole issue of speaking and writing grammatically passed me by when it would have been painless to learn it. Argh. Fortunately, one woman with a good grip on the gnarly weirdness of English and a compassion for the accrued errors in common parlance has weighed in to help. I voluntarily took myself to my college's Center for Academic Assistance to learn many of the lessons in this book, but not all stuck. So, I am thrilled to have a great, concise generously-illustrated guide to good grammar. Of some of the mistakes discussed, I said to myself, 'I knew THAT.' While reading too many others, I'm ashamed to say, I thought, 'What the hell is wrong with that?' Short of having a grammar nazi review every piece of your writing and explain your own personal grammar problems, this is pretty damned wonderful.

Another reviewer (the 3-star review counterpoint) points out Ms. Casagrande's supposed misuse of "had." This 'had' business bedevils me so I checked the Prentice Hall Grammar Guide and lo and behold, the reviewer is wrong because he ignores the existence of several subtle past tenses beyond just vanilla past tense. So, I will enjoy reviewing this without qualms to brush up my English. Thank you, Ms. Casagrande. I owe you an apple.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Copyediting for Everyone., August 9, 2011
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
The author of this book used to be an editor and her job was to take badly written articles and make them readable, and that's what this book is about. There are 21 chapters and each one covers a different subject - short vs long sentences, 'sentences that say nothing, or worse', matters of tense, unclear antecedents, etc. It also has 3 appendixes - one on grammar, one on punctuation, and one on how to spot common mistakes.

Cassagrande's approach goes like this - she shows us a badly written sentence, explains what the reader might have problem with, then shows how it can be redone to make it more reader-friendly. That's it. It's not grammar-nazism. She's trying to help you make things more readable.

I found the book handy. Cassagrande is a friendly teacher who knows her stuff. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gem on how to write, June 3, 2012
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
For any student who already understands the basics of English grammar but longs to learn more, Casagrande's book is helpful. It is clear and concise. And reverent. That is, the author's tone suggests that she really loves language and thinks that precision and clarity in writing is of the utmost importance. I sense from her tone that the way we speak and think is not a game to her. Some of the other works I have looked at recently shock me. Some people really do want to master language in order to better manipulate others for selfish ends. I shouldn't be shocked, but I am.

The reverent tone of the book struck me as unusual (compared to the other works I've read). But the book is virtuous for another reason. It at times summarizes points of grammar that are disputed today and then seeks to resolve any dispute as logically and concisely as possible. How valuable!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too "chatterboxy" in many places, November 19, 2012
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
In her efforts to be chatty, Casagrande becomes too "chatterboxy" in many places in the book.

For example, the "Introduction" is six pages. And in Chapter 1, she writes: "For years I made my living schlepping city council stories for a small community newspaper. Perhaps a third of the articles I wrote could have been begun with an identical opener: "On Tuesday, the city council voted to..." But they didn't. The reason: the almighty Reader.

In any type of writing, be it journalism, fiction, or advertising copy, the almighty Reader is the boss. But there's no better field for understanding this than community news. When I worked in that field, the Reader was always in my face. He wasn't like the silent, invisible fickle master consuming literary fiction, corporate earnings reports, or sales brochure. The community news Reader wrote to me. He called me. And, because I was working in a much smaller arena than that of big-city reporters, he knew me. The Reader considered me part of the community, even though I lived fifty miles away, and he expected me to serve the town's best interests while answering to him directly.

Yes, this got annoying at times. Especially when he failed to realize that he didn't get to assign me stories: "I want you to do an expose on how the president of my condo association refuses to put up: "Keep Off the Grass" signs." In community news, the Reader will not be ignored.

Now that I no longer wake up in the middle of the night screaming, "I will not write a front-page article about your dog! I realize this experience is a good thing. It helped me understand how to form sentences that serve the Reader."

Under the subtitle "Thy Reader, Thy God" (almost 500 words in six paragraphs) in the "Introduction", the author has highlighted the reader is the boss. Why elaborate it further using 262 words in four paragraphs? The ramblings can reduced to -- to borrow a sentence from Sir Ernest Gowers's The Complete Plain Words (page ix, 1986 edn) -- "Think for others than for yourself."

Again on 56, she writes in a "chatterboxy" manner: "When I read stuff like this, I still can't help but think of Narcissus. He was the guy from Greek mythology who became so transfixed by his own reflection in a pool of water that he fell in and drowned. If you want to gaze lovingly at your own ability to imagine the sun stewing or a dead body distilling, disconnect your Internet, stick a wad of gum in your flash drive, close the door, and have a ball. Just don't expect your Reader to jump in the reflecting pool with you to willingly drown in the beauty of your words. Metaphors can indeed be beautiful and powerful, but for many writers (present company included) they're very hard to pull off."

Chapter 2 begins with: "Say, here's a god-awful sentence...." She then explains what's wrong with it and how to fix it." Chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 20 follow this format: a bad sentence and the cure. Fine.

On page 126, Casagrande writes: "Semicolons often serve no purpose other than to show off that the writer knows how to use semicolons."

I disagree.

In "The Elements of Style" (page 6, 1979 edn, Macmillan), the authors give three different sentences as illustrations:
*Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting adventures.
*Stevenson's romances are entertaining. They are full of exciting adventures.
*Stevenson's romances are entertaining for they are full of exciting adventures.

Strunk and White state: "A comparison of the three forms given above will show clearly the advantage of the first. It is, at least in the examples given, better than the second form because it suggests the close relationship between the two statements in a way that the second does attempt, and better than the third because it is briefer and more forcible."

On page 141, Casagrande writes: "The Elements of Style" was not written as book of universal writing laws. It was a classroom style guide for Strunk's Cornell students."

This is only partially true. In the "Introduction" of The Elements of Style (page xi, 1979 edn, Macmillan) E.B. White states: "In its original form, it was a forty-three page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy and brevity in the use of English...I have now completed a third revision... and in general the book has received a thorough overhaul." White's revisions have turned the little book into a writing "bible", applicable to most types of writing.

Casagrande's comments on page 164 discomfit me. She states: "...we've seen over and over that writing rules are made to be broken.....They help us when we're struggling. But they need not weigh us down when we're soaring." Is she implying that struggling writers should follow writing rules but best-selling authors can throw writing rules out of the window?

In Chapter 20, she gives a step-by-step approach to untangle a long problematic sentence. She advises: "Start by isolating the main subject and verb... blah, blah, blah." Useful guidelines in this chapter.

The book ends with three appendices: "Grammer for Writers", "Punctuation Basics for Writers" and "Deadliest Catches: The Most Incriminating Errors and How to Avoid Them". The last appendix -- with such a catchy subtitle -- is merely a list of 16 common typos.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Overly Helpful, March 24, 2013
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This review is from: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (Paperback)
This book would be very helpful for a beginning writer or possibly a teenager. The writer's style is engaging, which makes the book an easy read (not a simple task, given the topic!), and she provides relevant examples to emphasize her points. Personally, I did not find a lot of new information, so I was a little disappointed, but I did share some of the tips with my teenage son.
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It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences
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