"Telling me to 'Be clear,' " writes Joseph M. Williams in Style: Toward Clarity and Grace
, "is like telling me to 'Hit the ball squarely.' I know that. What I don't know is how to do it." If you are ever going to know how to write clearly, it will be after reading Williams' book, which is a rigorous examination of--and lesson in--the elements of fine writing. With any luck, your clear writing will turn graceful, as well. Though most of us, says Williams, would be happy just to write "clear, coherent, and appropriately emphatic prose," he is not content to teach us just that. He also attempts, by way of example, to determine what constitutes elegant writing.
Despite the proliferation of books in this genre, rarely does one feel so confident in one's instructor. Williams is meticulous and exacting, yet never pedantic. Though he agrees with most of his grammarian colleagues that, generally speaking, the active voice is better than the passive or that the ordinary word is preferable to the fancy, Williams is also quick to assert that there's no sense learning a rule "if all we can do is obey it." And he is most emphatic about the absurdity of prescriptions concerning usage (such as, "Never begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction"). Such rules, he says, "are 'violated' so consistently that, unless we are ready to indict for bad grammar just about every serious writer of modern English, we have to reject as misinformed anyone who would attempt to enforce them." --Jane Steinberg
From Library Journal
There is certainly no shortage of handbooks on writing, many of them packed with theory, description, rules, and perhaps some examples of good writing. What most lack is directions for improving bad writing--precisely what is offered by Williams ( Origins of the English Language , LJ 8/75). He first explains what constitutes poor writing and then presents and illustrates principles that will help writers produce sentences, paragraphs, and documents that clearly and directly communicate meaning to readers. Williams focuses on achieving gracefulness without sacrificing clarity. His delineation of the needs and problems of reader and writer is enlightening and helpful. Style is evidence that the author's approach works; it embodies the principles of clarity and grace it espouses. Highly recommended.- Craig W. Beard, Harding Univ. Lib., Searcy, Ark.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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