on August 16, 2010
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.
on August 3, 2010
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.
on July 27, 2010
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.
on October 23, 2012
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.
on August 13, 2010
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.
on August 9, 2011
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.
on March 24, 2013
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.
on December 22, 2015
I have mixed feelings about this book.
Let me start out with some positive feedback. I like the layout. Casagrande provides enough white space before introducing her examples. Her examples are also italicized. The layout helped me to better interpret her examples and points, while making the material less confusing for me to read and more understandable for me to comprehend, The author covers many important grammatical topics, including faulty parallelism, passive sentences, redundant sentences, and overused adverbs. Nevertheless, I feel that she tends to overstate a few of her opinions in this book. For one, Casagrande points out that she dislikes the conjunctive adverb "in addition.” Well, I find the transitional phrase "hence,” which she uses, as stuffy, and perhaps out-of-date and pretentious. We all have our own preferences, but I believe that from time to time, the author overemphasizes hers in this book. And what's wrong with using a semicolon? I did not learn how to use a semicolon in college, as she suggests as the logical reasoning behind many writers out there who may overuse it. I use the semicolon sparingly and only when it links two closely related ideas to emphasize an important connection. (Note: I learned how to use a semicolon in middle school, not in college.) Her example on page 148 connects this sentence with a semicolon: "Elephants are large; they eat foliage." I believe that this a terrible example because there is not a common enough element in play here with these sentences to add a semicolon. In addition, I must add that a glossary at the end of the book may have been helpful. I never knew what the word “copular” meant until I picked up this book: to copulate?” (Just a joke.). "Copular," I discovered is just a fancy word for a linking verb. It comes from the Latin verb "copula," for those of you who did not understand her meaning, as I did not.
Casagrande does, however, list a few reference materials that may assist some readers. I did follow her advice and order "Garner's Modern American English," which has been a helpful resource.
on November 16, 2012
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!
on January 12, 2016
Casagrande's column appears once a week in my local paper and it is always a delight to read. I had high expectations for this book but it may not be possible for me to ever finish it due to the miniscule font. Why did Ten Speed Press use such a tiny font? Unless you have excellent vision avoid this book with its 9 point font.