- Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
- Paperback: 226 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 15, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226899152
- ISBN-13: 978-0226899152
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Style: Toward Clarity and Grace (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)
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"Telling me to 'Be clear,' " writes Joseph M. Williams in Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, "is like telling me to 'Hit the ball squarely.' I know that. What I don't know is how to do it." If you are ever going to know how to write clearly, it will be after reading Williams' book, which is a rigorous examination of--and lesson in--the elements of fine writing. With any luck, your clear writing will turn graceful, as well. Though most of us, says Williams, would be happy just to write "clear, coherent, and appropriately emphatic prose," he is not content to teach us just that. He also attempts, by way of example, to determine what constitutes elegant writing.
Despite the proliferation of books in this genre, rarely does one feel so confident in one's instructor. Williams is meticulous and exacting, yet never pedantic. Though he agrees with most of his grammarian colleagues that, generally speaking, the active voice is better than the passive or that the ordinary word is preferable to the fancy, Williams is also quick to assert that there's no sense learning a rule "if all we can do is obey it." And he is most emphatic about the absurdity of prescriptions concerning usage (such as, "Never begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction"). Such rules, he says, "are 'violated' so consistently that, unless we are ready to indict for bad grammar just about every serious writer of modern English, we have to reject as misinformed anyone who would attempt to enforce them." --Jane Steinberg
From Library Journal
There is certainly no shortage of handbooks on writing, many of them packed with theory, description, rules, and perhaps some examples of good writing. What most lack is directions for improving bad writing--precisely what is offered by Williams ( Origins of the English Language , LJ 8/75). He first explains what constitutes poor writing and then presents and illustrates principles that will help writers produce sentences, paragraphs, and documents that clearly and directly communicate meaning to readers. Williams focuses on achieving gracefulness without sacrificing clarity. His delineation of the needs and problems of reader and writer is enlightening and helpful. Style is evidence that the author's approach works; it embodies the principles of clarity and grace it espouses. Highly recommended.
- Craig W. Beard, Harding Univ. Lib., Searcy, Ark.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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By accident or on purpose, Williams has done in 200 plus what Orwell did in 20 or less.
If you don't like Orwell's English bias (especially towards interminable Dickensonian sentences), a bias shared by Prof. WIlliams, then after reading Orwell, take the pleasant stroll of reading anything and all of Twain, Melville, and Hemingway. But, out of all things to read about writing well, I cannot recommend this book.
This book takes a sort of linguistic, almost scientific approach to improving your writing style. I first learned of Williams' work in "The Language Instinct," by the Stephen Pinker, the acclaimed professor of linguistics from MIT.
Unlike every other writing book, this one is more than a laundry list of grammatical shoulds and shouldn'ts. This book is about HOW-- how to write to suit the human brain's innate method of processing information.
I am a professional writer, and I have a whole book case filled with grammar books. But this book is worth more than all the others combined. If you're a writer, this is the book you've been looking for.
You'll understand why when you read this book. More than any other work I've seen, this book provides insight into how the mind operates during reading and applies this insight to the process of writing. Williams makes explicit the many subtle and not so subtle patterns and principles that govern how the mind comprehends writing. If you've had the experience of writing well--and not so well--but not realized why, this book will help you by revealing the principles of clarity that you've been applying intuitively for years--and those you haven't. This is a demanding but very rewarding book that would be of enormous value not only to writers, but to editors and even casual readers who want to deepen their appreciation of what makes lucid writing what it is. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Make no mistake! This is not beach reading, as Williams himself would tell you. Williams develops an entire system of writing over the course of the book, adding to it chapter by chapter. If you're not used to sustained intellectual effort, or if you have a short attention span, this book will definitely be a stretch. It requires prolonged concentration. But if you put forth the effort, it will be rewarded! I've read this book through at least eight times cover to cover, and while I'm not a great writer, I've improved immeasurably.
My compliments to Professor Williams - a great book!