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The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well Paperback – September 1, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Paula LaRocque is best known for her regular columns on writing well in The Dallas Morning News, Quill magazine, APME News and other publications that reach a broad professional and consumer audience. She also spreads her writing knowledge through regular appearances on KERA, the NPR affiliate radio station in Dallas, and other radio programs throughout North America. She is in high demand as a speaker at journalism and business writing events. She recently retired as the assistant managing editor and writing coach at The Dallas Morning News, where she had worked since 1981. She was a writing consultant for the Associated Press Washington Bureau from 1989 to 1993, and in 1993 she appeared in a PBS special, 'The Writing Coach: With Paula LaRocque'. She previously taught creative and journalistic writing at Western Michigan University, Texas A&M, Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Street Press, LLC; a edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966517695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966517699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the years, I have relied on various works to instruct and guide my efforts to write more effectively. For example, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, Zinnser's On Writing Well, and Hacker's Rules for Writers. To them I now add this book. The Book on Writing is widely adopted (or recommended) by school, college, and university instructors. I think it will also be of great value to just about anyone else who needs to improve reasoning and reading as well as writing skills. LaRocque divides her 22 chapters within two parts, "A Dozen Guidelines to Good Writing" and "Language and Mechanics." The chapter titles suggest several key points, all of which are evident in the non-fiction of masters such as George Orwell and E.B. White. For example:

Chapter 1: Keep Sentences Short, and Keep to One Main Idea Per Sentence
Chapter 5: Use the Right Word
Chapter 7: Prefer Active Verbs and the Active Voice
Chapter 8: Cut Wordiness
Chapter 12: Get Right to the Point. And Stay There

Although these and other of LaRocque's guidelines may seem obvious, my own experience as a classroom teacher suggests that few students seem to be aware of them...and even fewer follow them. (FYI, I taught English for 13 years in two New England boarding schools -- Kent and St. George's -- and for the past 10 years have been an adjunct professor of English at a local community college in the Dallas area.) What sets LaRocque's book apart from almost all others which cover much of the same material is that her personal, indeed conversational style establishes and then sustains a tutorial relationship with her reader; also, throughout her book, she includes hundreds of real-world examples of writing which is correct or incorrect, appropriate or inappropriate, effective or ineffective.
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This author has impeccable credentials, having worked in journalism all her professional life. She has been a newspaper editor, corporate seminar leader (in writing and communication), college professor, and author of many books. She puts a lifetime of writing, editing, and the teaching of writing into this book. No wonder it is so good.

She divides it into three parts:

Part I - a dozen guidelines in 80 pages: Keep sentences short, and keep to one main idea per sentence; avoid pretensions, gobbledygook, and euphemisms; change long and difficult words to short and simple words; be wary of jargon, fad, and cliche; use the right word; avoid beginning with long dependent phrases; prefer active verbs and the active voice; cut wordiness; avoid vague qualifiers; prune prepositions; limit number and symbol; get right to the point. And stay there.

Part II - Chapters 13 - 22, 10 points in 80 pages: This part is the meat, is the hardest to achieve, and is about telling your story. She fills it with examples from famous and not-so-famous authors, good writing and bad:

LaRocque: Creative writers can strengthen their work with allusions or quotations without explaining or attributing them. This is especially true of quotations, if they're well known. Sometimes both writer and characters can have fun with allusions or quotations, or otherwise find them useful in clarifying the action.

In Ruth Rendel's "Shake Hands Forever," her sleuth Inspector Wexford says on the phone to one of his investigators: "Howard, you are my only ally." Howard responds: "Well, you know what Chesterton said about that. I'll be at that bus stop from five-thirty onwards tonight and then we'll see.
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It seems there are a lot of people who think they can write an authoritative book on the art of writing. It is always a wonderful surprise to find one that actually knows what they are talking about and can convey their expertise is a clear and concise manner. Author Paula LaRocque is one of those few and shares her knowledge in her book "The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well". She divides the book up into three sections - A Dozen Guidelines to Good Writing, Storytelling, and Language and Writing Mechanics. Through the use of illustrative texts both before revision and afterwards she clearly illustrates each item as she discusses it. This is one of the best books on writing and should be read by anyone wanting to move their writing up to the next level.
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For anyone who wants to improve his/her writing, be it a novel, report, or personal correspondence, there is no better guide than Paula LaRocque's The Book on Writing.
She defines and illustrates such divers topics as wordiness, jargon, vague qualifiers, archetype, and many more. Writing in which the narrative is elegant, concise, and easy for the reader to follow is decidedly not easy. After reading LaRocque, the verity of Mark Twain's admission that, "I would have written you a shorter note if I had had the time," will be more fully appreciated.
This is not a dry, pedantic `how to' book on writing. It is an entertainingly easy to follow guide on not only what to do, but just as importantly, what not to do. Building interest and suspense, creating word pictures, use of appropriate metaphor, and other writing techniques are explained and illustrated in this superb book.
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