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Stunning Sentences (The Effective Writing Series) Paperback – July 17, 1999
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From Library Journal
Ross-Larson, founder of the American Writing Institute, here offers a three-part course in "effective writing." He starts with the basics in Stunning Sentences, which uses model sentences to illustrate different approaches, including Dramatic Flourishes, Credible Quotations, and Stark Attachments. He moves up to the next level with Powerful Paragraphs, which tells writers how to make strong points and to link their paragraphs together to make smooth and highly readable transitions. Many model paragraphs show readers how to use the techniques described. Finally, the reader is ready to write Riveting Reports. This book tells how to develop a theme, put together an outline, gather material, write drafts, and do a final edit. Instead of the time- honored note cards, Ross-Larson has writers taping sheets of paper to the walls to get a full view, very likely the best way to write and edit reports with word processors. These three books have good solid information for writers and would be especially useful for high school students. [These three titles are also available from Norton in a single hardcover called Effective Writing, ISBN 0-393-04639-7. $29.95.]ALisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., W.
-ALisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Bruce Ross-Larson lives in Washington, D.C.
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Top customer reviews
- The author's classification scheme is clever and memorable, but it works at cross-purposes with traditional grammatical classification; matters of sentence structure, diction, voice, and punctuation may all be mixed together in a single chapter. Also, the chapters do not appear to be in any logical order.
- While the introduction and first chapter are rather chatty, after that, the author's tone tends to be somewhat formal.
- The author argues up-front for "25 words or less" as the ideal sentence length, yet many of his examples and quite a bit of his own commentary on those examples violate this guideline.
- All the tools for improving sentences - over 50 of them - are covered in a mere 45 pages (the "94 pages" stated length includes all front *and* back matter).
- Finally, while I found a great many competent, effective sentences in this book, I can't recall being **stunned** by a single one.
Perhaps we're all so inured to TV-style marketing hype that we don't expect a book to deliver contents commensurate with the title's promise, but this title seems a bit pretentious, even so. The book has its moments, and the generous offering of examples is perhaps the book's strongest point. But overall, it seemed, well, hasty. I expected more, and the reader deserves more.
The book has segments like the following (since italics is not available, I will represent it with UPPERCASE):
Simplest, and thus clearest, the direct sentence has one main clause and is the starting point for countless variants.
Smart eateries are puting peculiar mushrooms on the menu.
HARD TO GET MORE DIRECT THAN THIS: WHO IS DOING WHAT OT WHAT AND WHERE.
The second common variant to the direct sentence is to add a comment or definition by means of a WHICH clause.
The book also suffers more than usual from Elshtain's prose style, WHICH IS EARNEST AT BEST AND PLODDING AT WORST
SET OFF BY COMMAS, THE which CLAUSE CAN BE LEFT OUT WITHOUT DISRUPTING THE MEANING OF THE MAIN CLAUSE.
This is a very dumb style for writing a book; even worse, if it is one about good writing.
In an attempt to make the book somewhat readable, I had to draw a box around every example.
Afterwards, I find that most of the recommendations are amateurish, without any logical, nor grammar support, but just the supposedly "exquisite" author's taste. He says that the key to improve our writing is unexpectedness; and his main way to be unexpected is violating grammar. One of his "stunning" sentences is
<<<All the crusading doesn't reassure the public. JUST THE OPPOSITE.>>
He says JUST THE OPPOSITE is a stunning sentence (even when it is not a sentence) because he removed the verb that everybody is expecting.
As reader, I would find more elegant the normal way of writing
<< All the crusading does not reassure the public; it is just the opposite.>>
Other of his "great" recommendations are faulty reestatements of the standard writing rules, as for example:
<<Her novels REGISTERED these events most secretly, her letters not at all.>
The correct, also more elegant, way of writing this is:
<<Her novels REGISTERED these events most secretly; her letters, not at all.>
where, as it is known, the comma after the semicolon indicates that the verb of the previous sentence is implicitly repetead.
Use your money in another book instead of this.
"Stunning Sentences" covers: Approach, Common Form, Short Form, Dramatic Flourishes, Elegant Repeats, Credible Quotes, Conversational Injections, Stark Attaches, Deft Connects, & One-syllable Openers. (Author's 'Injections' seemingly variant interjections & asides).
Author offers "hundreds of sample sentences cataloged by type" & "this book will show you patterns...in good writing"...& "how you can...write with precision & eloquence." The author offers "many tools...to create...rhythm...& balance...& build...individual style."
Author reports his credentials as "Founder of the Amnerican Writing Institute", but his booklet (at least for me) missed its mark & was neither inspirational nor elegant. What I learned was the author's preoccupation, praise & prediliction for: "The Economist" (74 citations), "New York Times" magazine" (44 cit.), "New Yorker" magazine (15 cit.), "New York Times" (10 cit.), "New York Book Review" (8 cit.), & a few others. Why any author would choose to fill 1/4 of a booklet with such extensive citations is unreasonable (unless to avoid plagarism) & is not evidence of originality (perhaps novelty was sought?).
Alternative? If you desire help on writing skills do consider: "The Little Red Writing Book" by Brandon Royal -- it has much more to offer (see my recent review on "TLRWB").