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Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose Paperback – August 13, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 250 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Probably the hippest grammar guide ever written, this book shows how to write for results, wholesome or subversive.” —American Way
 
“This new grammar book is light-years ahead of what you’d read in eighth-grade English: With vivid, contemporary examples of what to do and what not to do, it’s fun to read.” —
Charlotte Observer
 
“In ‘Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose,’ Constance Hale provides a plugged-in, cutting-edge alternative to the must prescriptions of Strunk and White. Here you will find an open-minded, exuberant approach to style that is intelligent and refreshing.” —Charles Harrington Elster, in
The San Diego Union-Tribune
 
 “Hale has put together a writing/grammar manual that is fresh and fun. The basic rules are here, and they are well explained. The ‘sin’ from the title is partly advice on when and how to break these rules. The other sins are examples of oft-repeated mistakes…..this guide will help [readers] use effective and artful language. The examples range from Dr. Seuss books to John F. Kennedy's speeches to commercials…. Easy to understand and appealing to a broad range of readers, this book is highly recommend for all libraries.” —Alisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI, in
Library Journal
 
“This is a wonderful how-to-book about writing stuff people want to read. Those who have studied the subject might think of Hale as a peacemaker between the Strunk and White tribe devoted to precision and the more entertaining descendants of Henry Mencken, full of energy and inventions. Nonwriters who just want advice that won’t put them to sleep will find sentences they can dance to.” —Make Maza in
The Dallas Morning News
 
 “Constance Hale, in ‘Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose,’ is the first grammarian I’ve seen in a long time brave enough to revive diagramming.” —Ed Gray, in the
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
 
 “Hale’s analyses of texts, from Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! To the jargon-laden prose of government and corporate documents, are full of insight because she lets the reader in on how language has the power to move us or confuse us.”  —Charles K. Bultman, in California Lawyer
 
 “Hale [is] good at explaining rules, and she provides a lot of examples of writing that really is sinfully good. Osmosis alone should help you here.” —Gary Kaufman, in
Salon
 
"Move over, grumpy schoolmarms everywhere. Your time has come.  For the writer or wannabe, 
Sin and Syntax  is an urgently needed, updated, and hip guide to modern language and writing. Nobody but Connie Hale could make the elements of 21st-century style so much fun." --Jon Katz, media critic and author of Running to the Mountain and Virtuous Reality

"
Sin and Syntax is one of the rare books that recognizes--and even celebrates--the fact that good writing has little to do with 'rules' and much to do with a true understanding of effective prose. Connie Hale provides us an invaluable service by showing us what works and what doesn't in the real world, regardless of what the pedants say."--Jesse Sheidlower, Senior Editor, Random House Dictionaries, and author of "Jesse's Word of the Day" column

About the Author

Constance Hale is the author of several books, including three on writing: Sin and Syntax; Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch; and Wired Style, the one-of-a-kind guide to online English usage and geekspeak that was hailed by Newsweek as "The Chicago Manual of Style for the Millennium." A former editor at Wired, Hale has written for numerous publications including the San Francisco Examiner and The Microsoft Network. She has created maverick writing courses for people of all ages, including a popular seminar called "Grammar for Grownups," and currently teaches at U.C. Berkeley. She lives in Oakland, California.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown; Revised, Updated edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385346891
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0385346894
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.2 x 0.66 x 7.99 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 250 ratings

About the author

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I am a writer based in San Francisco. I grew up on the North Shore of O‘ahu, where I spoke "proper" English at home and Hawaiian creole (or "Pidgin English") at school. I'm sure that this "bilingual upbringing" gave me my obsession with language. I travel to Hawai‘i often, and to stay connected to that culture I study the hula in California. Although my six books may not seem connected, they do if you understand my origins.

My newest hardcover book builds on my three decades as a journalist always eager to write about Hawaiian culture, politics, and history. "The Natives Are Restless" uses a San Francisco dance master--and my teacher for 20 years--as a keyhole into the world of hula and the rich history of Hawaii. I call the book an "intellectual coffee-table" book. The text combines biography, dance ethnography, profiles, scenes, and dramatic dance writing. And it is complemented by stunning four-color photography and archival images.

"‘Iwalani's Tree" is a picture book for children aged 3-8. This is a story I have told for many, many years. It took a long time to get the poetry right and to find a publisher who knew the magic of the ironwood tree that grows across the Pacific. That publisher, BeachHouse, based in Honolulu, found the perfect artist to render the story in tropical colors.

My language books spring from my island roots, too, if in a different way. I left Hawai‘i for college, spent years writing fiction and drama, then got a master's degree in journalism. I worked as a reporter and editor at several California newspapers and magazines, where I began seriously dabbling in the idiosyncrasies of the mother tongue. I wrote "Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age" in 1996 after doing a stint at the "bible of digital culture." Then I wrote "Sin and Syntax" in 1999. The books got me dubbed "Marion the Librarian on a Harley or E.B. White on acid."

"Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch" completes the trilogy. I was still curious about the history of English--and indeed the evolution of language itself--and wanted to explore some of my ideas about how and why the verb is the linchpin of great writing. It's intended to be useful to professional writers and students, but also just fun and weird and interesting.

In 2018, I produced an e-book, "Constance Hale's Lesson Plans for Teachers," to translate the ideas in my language books to the classroom. In it, I expand the pedagogical elements of my books and offer discussion topics, exercises, writing prompts, and additional resources for teachers who use my books. The idea is to inspire students of all ages to rediscover the magic of language, to explore grammar in a new way, and to play more confidently in their writing.

Complementing all of this is a series on the sentence for "Draft," in the New York Times Opinionator. I continue to offer opinions, tips, techniques, and teaching materials to writers and teachers via my Web site, www.sinandsyntax.com.

I don't write only about language; I've covered Latino culture, Berkeley politics, ethnic-folk music, and Hawaiian sovereignty--in publications as diverse as The Atlantic Monthly, Honolulu, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian. My travel pieces and personal essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous anthologies.

The secret to the writing I like: an unusual combo of classy and sassy. The secret to the teaching I like: smart lessons and hilarious fun. The secret to the life I seek: giving of yourself to others.

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
250 global ratings

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Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Making grammar understandable
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on April 5, 2015
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Morrison Stone
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting title.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on March 24, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazong
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Ms P M Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars Sin and Syntax
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K P C Collins
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 27, 2016
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