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Several Short Sentences About Writing Hardcover – August 7, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0307266347 ISBN-10: 0307266346

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307266346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266347
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Verlyn Klinkenborg has written an exceptionally interesting and useful book about writing.  There have been good books on grammar and style, some classics, but none to compare to this one for understanding where sentences come from in the first place, where their vitality is found, and what distinguishes their energy,  their authenticity, and their prospects for life after birth--that is, the art of revision.  This book's long future will be a testament to its author's principles.” –Tom McGuane

"This is a very interesting little book about writing. Modest. Learned. Good-natured. Direct and sympathetic to its readers. You don't even have to read it front to back (probably you couldn't, anyway). You can just open it anywhere—as I did—and take away something useful." –Richard Ford   

“Verlyn Klinkenborg's Several Short Sentences About Writing is an invaluable book for anyone who wants to write well. The simple clarity and logic that he brings to the page is mesmerizing and inspiring—the ultimate cleansing process that leaves you wanting a fresh piece of paper and a brand new start. It is a book filled with great advice and wisdom. And it's fun, too!” –Jill McCorkle

“Expertise and zeal are required for an established writer to offer genuinely useful guidance to aspiring writers. It also helps if the writer teaches writing, as Klinkenborg has for many years…The result is a unique anatomy of the sentence and the writing mind and a clarifying and invigorating ‘book of first steps.’” –Booklist  

“To paraphrase Voltaire’s statement concerning the Almighty, ‘if Verlyn Klinkenborg did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.’ Because having read Several Short Sentences About Writing, I do not think that it would be possible to not have this book on hand…no other book, old or new, is as well reasoned as this, as entertaining or as wise…Indeed, no other book is as filled with as much grounded, practical advice for putting words to the paper or electronic page or gives better, more helpful exercises…Best book on writing. Ever.” –New York Journal of Books  
“A fresh perspective on writing that goes against conventional classroom theory.” –Shelf Awareness
“Klinkenborg does away with much of the traditional wisdom on writing and dissects the sentence—its structure, its intention, its semantic craftsmanship—to deliver a new, useful, and direct guide to the art of storytelling.” –Brain Pickings

“Powerful…each sentence miraculously contains an idea or insight that lesser writers would have milked for several pages.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette   

About the Author

Verlyn Klinkenborg is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, to which he also contributes meditations about his farm in upstate New York, collected in The Rural Life. His other books include Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. Klinkenborg has a Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton University. 

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Customer Reviews

It will banish your fear, fortify your self-confidence.
Ksenia Anske
I pick up this book, open it, and love it--wherever I start reading happens to be good.
Weston Becker
It makes many good points in an amusing fashion about how to write well .
Scientist in San Francisco

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Richard Gilbert on August 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How to foster a certain quality of mind, the writing mind, which notices, lies at the heart of Several Short Sentences About Writing. As the quotes below show, Klinkenborg's writing advice is presented like poetry. Technically it IS poetry, as he's controlling the length of his lines. This compulsively readable declarative poem runs for149 of the book's 204 pages, the balance being examples of prose, good and bad, and concise commentary. Here are some of his gnomic stanzas that struck me as interesting:

"If you notice something, it's because it's important.
But what you notice depends on what you allow yourself to notice,
And that depends on what you feel authorized, permitted to notice
In a world where we're trained to disregard our perceptions. . . .

"Is it possible to practice noticing?
I think so.
But I also think it requires a suspension of yearning
And a pause in the desire to be pouring something out of yourself.
Noticing is about letting yourself out into the world,
Rather than siphoning the world into you
In order to transmute it into words."

. . .

"The longer the sentence, the less it's able to imply,
And writing by implication should be one of your goals.
Implication is almost nonexistent in the prose that surrounds you . . .

"Try making prose with a poetic seriousness about its tools--
Rhythm, twists of language, the capacity to show the reader
What lies beyond expression,
But with the gaits of prose and a plainness in reserve
That poetry rarely possesses, an exalted plainness."

It's up to you to decide for yourself in the crucible of your practice whether Klinkenborg's opinions are true. He calls them conclusions, not assumptions.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ronald E Jeffries on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The point, writing very simply. is good. the style is very choppy. he uses short sentences.


it becomes off-putting. irritating.

the effect is interesting in small doses. this is a large dose. it becomes hard to get any new thoughts from it.

it's like a faucet drop. if it were rhythmic, it wouldn't be so bad.

but it isn't.

it's too random. good lessons, though. too random. for my taste.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bibliophile on September 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful work, itself a work of art about writing. Every single sentence is worth remembering, and putting to good use. The book is beautifully designed, from the lovely cover to the design of each of the pages, all of them intended to draw the reader's attention to the words, the sentences, themselves. The text is arranged like a long poem, with lines breaking significantly to create emphasis, to slow the reader down, to make the point. I've read some other reviews here that complain about the layout and design (one even said it was unreadable ... I can only imagine that he/she is unused to reading poetry), but if you're a writer and a reader, and most of all, a lover of the sentence, you'll appreciate Klinkenborg's attempt to put the sentence into sharp focus. After all, the book is all about sentences ... it's not titled "Several Short Paragraphs About Writing," it's a collection of sentences about writing. It's poetic, and poetic form has the unique capability to bring the sentence to our attention. Overall, a really beautiful piece of work. I could not put it down.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter Meyers on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Equal to Strunk & White. Beautiful advice, innovative presentation. I didn't agree with every last point Klinkenborg made but what a treat spending time in the company of such a clear thinker. A must have for anyone who wants to write well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth H on October 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In this little book, Klinkenborg discusses how education and precedent lead people to write overly long, complicated sentences. He stresses writing clear sentences that say what you mean them to say. All the rest will fall into place from there.

I'm not sure if writing clearly is as simple as Klinkenborg makes it out to be but I did cull a few gems from the text that I'd like to share -

You can't revise or discard what you don't consciously recognize.

A cliche is dead matter.
It causes gangrene in the prose around it, and sooner or later, it eats your brain.

Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Your other jobs include fixing sentences, killing sentences, and arranging sentences.

This book will motivate you to focus on writing at the sentence level and not worry about the piece of writing as a whole.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ksenia Anske on May 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I never thought that what I had to say might be important. Never thought what I notice might be important. How could it? Who am I to have an important opinion? I’ve been told to pay no heed to my perceptions, to disregard my thoughts, to learn from the wise and from the important and from the established legerdemains of prose. I’ve been taught in school in analyze my ideas before putting them down on paper, and I grew to be afraid of them. What if they weren’t right? Of course they weren’t, I thought, comparing my writing to that of others, big important people. I never got good grades on my writing, never an A, always a B or a C, always handed to me by the teacher with an irritated face. All that fantasy I dared to put in my essays, all that emotion. Of course, I grew up in Soviet Union and it might have been different for you, the native speaker reading this review. But if you’re a writer or are thinking about becoming a writer, this book is for you. It made me cry on every page. It made me feel like Verlyn held my hand and told me that what I have to say is important, the way I want to say it is important, because IT’S IMPORTANT TO ME. For no other reason. Yes, I’m a writer. I usually recommend to other writers only one book, ON WRITING, by Stephen King. From this moment on I will be recommending two books, ON WRITING and SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING.


Because you can open it in any place and find support. More. You will see your writing as a series of small steps. Sentences. It will remove your fear. All you have to do, to write a book, is to write a lot of clear beautiful sentences. And you can do it. One sentence at a time. Writing one sentence doesn’t seem do daunting as writing a whole book, does it?
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