- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 4th edition (December 18, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060937238
- ISBN-13: 978-0060937232
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Simple & Direct 4th Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Rare is the book that causes one to consider--ponder? appraise? examine? inspect? contemplate?--one's every word. Simple & Direct, a classic text on the craft of writing by the educator Jacques Barzun, does so--with style. His object, says Barzun, is "to resensitize the mind to words." Do not use a word unless you know both its meaning and its connotations, its "quality" and its "atmosphere," and the ways in which it joins with other words. Barzun is an exacting taskmaster, railing against abstractions, "fancy" wordings, contemporary slang (which "prey[s] upon the vocabulary rather than nourish[es] it"), misprints ("it is rudeness to let them appear"), and the like. He bemoans what he sees as "a fury at work in the people to make war on hyphens," and he loathes those new words, such as condominium, that have been "cobbled together out of shavings and leftovers."
Still, no stodgy codger he. Barzun merely asks that you "have a point and make it by means of the best word." If that means splitting an infinitive or substituting a "which" for a "that," so be it. Just be sure that the decision to do so is conscious and informed. Once you've found the right word, you can move on to writing sentences and then leaning them against one another until they form paragraphs. Only when you've gotten it all down, says Barzun, should you allow yourself the pleasure of revision. "Unlike the sculptor," he says, "the writer can start carving and enjoying himself only after he has dug the marble out of his own head." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Born in France in 1907, Jacques Barzun came to the United States in 1920. After graduating from Columbia College, he joined the faculty of the university, becoming Seth Low Professor of History and, for a decade, Dean of Faculties and Provost. The author of some thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller From Dawn to Decadence, he received the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president. He lived in San Antonio, Texas, before passing away at age 104.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
This book is a must read every few years if you are a writer. It's not in most curriculums for some reason so it makes a great gift for high school or college age people interested in writing.
I wish more people would read this book then the world wouldn't be as full of crap writing as it woefully is.
In print for a quarter of a century (updated with a fourth edition in 2001), the book is a "handbook for whoever wants to conquer some of the permanent difficulties of writing prose".
Barzun recognises this challenge upfront: "Writing always presents problems, dilemmas, some of which beset all writers, even great ones; but there is no need to be baffled by all the difficulties every time you write."
The book is hard going at first because of the detailed explanations but once you grasp how he has broken English into its basic elements and then combines them it's difficult to put "Simple and Direct" down.
Barzun can be didactic but his gentle wit makes up for finger wagging. For instance on diction: "But his real interest lay elsewhere than the Court of George II." Barzun notes: "It turns out on further reading that his real interest (singular) did lie at the court; it was one of the ladies-in-waiting; but his real interests (plural), meaning what would be better for his fortune, lay in his country estate."
Finding the right tone can be torture. Barzun's advice: "The best tone is the tone called plain, unaffected, unadorned. It does not talk down or jazz up ... it does not try to dazzle or cajole the indifferent; it takes no posture of coziness or sophistication. It is the most difficult of all tones, also the most adaptable. When you can write plain you can trust yourself in special effects."
Structuring your writing for maximum interest and flow is challenging. His remedy: make a quick "shorthand" outline of your draft using a key word (or key words) for each paragraph. It helps disentangle your meaning and more effectively order your ideas.
This is one of the better books on writing and style. It's a useful companion to gems like "Elements of Style" (William Strunk Jr and E B White) and "Newsman's English" (Harold Evans) - revised in a modern edition as "Essential English".
"Simple and Direct" is a rewarding read for those determined to write better -- with economy, clarity, vigour -- and, most importantly, to be understood.
After reading a couple of reviews, and seeing that it had gone through four editions since first being published in 1975, I sprang for it (second hand on Amazon, of course.)
There are six chapters (Diction, Linking, Tone and Tune, Meaning, Composition and Revision). Each chapter has discussions and exercises (basically correcting errors in sentences and paragraphs), as well as examples of good writing. The book can work as a kind of textbook in a beginning or intermediate writing class; or as a supplement. However for a casual reader such as myself, looking for hints, clues and ideas, it was too much. I only did about 10% of the exercises.
I would only recommend this book for someone who was going to seriously engage it, with all the exercises.
The author, Jacques Barzun (a well-known academic; here's the opening line in Jacques Barzun - Wikipedia, "a leading American historian of ideas and culture. He has also eloquently defended tradition in the practice of higher education and scholarship.") wouldn't have been too impressed with the cliche I used in the second paragraph above "I sprang for it".