Most helpful positive review
87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Excellent (though not perfect)
on January 5, 2001
This is a fine book, and I'm surprised it's not better known. More useful than Strunk & White, less intimidating than Joseph Williams, it is the single best book for someone who is looking to improve their writing beyond spelling and grammar. With clear, succinct, and witty chapters on subjects which other books go overboard on -- beginnings, middles, and ends; diction; punctuation; revising and proofreading -- there is no better introduction to the art (beyond the craft) of writing. There are useful tips on usage and superstitions ("never use contractions", "never split an infinitive", etc.) as well as a twenty-five-page collection of quotes from writers about writing. Many of the points which Trimble considers most important are highlighted in boxes separate from the text, so if you're in a hurry and looking for the meat of a chapter, it's easy to find.
This is not a perfect book, though, an it's not intended to be encyclopedic, so you won't find answers to all your questions. The chapter on writing a critical analysis is tantalizingly useless and seems like an afterthought (although it was included in the first edition). The "Quoting" chapter is useful if you're not doing academic writing, but the book seems aimed at an academic audience, and such audiences mostly need to know the details of citing sources through the MLA , APA, or Chicago styles. (On the other hand, Trimble has some interesting tips on using quotes in your writing.)
If you're an experienced writer, you won't find anything new here. That's okay, though. Few of the ideas Trimble explores have ever been stated more clearly or gracefully. What he lacks in depth he makes up for in style, and since many books which are about style are not written with it, it's nice to encounter a text which is so pleasant to read. The best chapter, to my mind, is the first: "Thinking Well". Plenty of books talk about this subject, or pass over it quickly, or allude to it, but I don't know of any which give it the importance it deserves aside from this book, and I've never seen the case stated with, simultaneously, such practicality and eloquence. It is the meeting of those two qualities which makes Trimble's book unique.