Customer Reviews: Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing (3rd Edition)
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on January 5, 2001
This is a fine book, and I'm surprised it's not better known. More useful than Strunk & White, less intimidating than Joseph Williams, it is the single best book for someone who is looking to improve their writing beyond spelling and grammar. With clear, succinct, and witty chapters on subjects which other books go overboard on -- beginnings, middles, and ends; diction; punctuation; revising and proofreading -- there is no better introduction to the art (beyond the craft) of writing. There are useful tips on usage and superstitions ("never use contractions", "never split an infinitive", etc.) as well as a twenty-five-page collection of quotes from writers about writing. Many of the points which Trimble considers most important are highlighted in boxes separate from the text, so if you're in a hurry and looking for the meat of a chapter, it's easy to find.
This is not a perfect book, though, an it's not intended to be encyclopedic, so you won't find answers to all your questions. The chapter on writing a critical analysis is tantalizingly useless and seems like an afterthought (although it was included in the first edition). The "Quoting" chapter is useful if you're not doing academic writing, but the book seems aimed at an academic audience, and such audiences mostly need to know the details of citing sources through the MLA , APA, or Chicago styles. (On the other hand, Trimble has some interesting tips on using quotes in your writing.)
If you're an experienced writer, you won't find anything new here. That's okay, though. Few of the ideas Trimble explores have ever been stated more clearly or gracefully. What he lacks in depth he makes up for in style, and since many books which are about style are not written with it, it's nice to encounter a text which is so pleasant to read. The best chapter, to my mind, is the first: "Thinking Well". Plenty of books talk about this subject, or pass over it quickly, or allude to it, but I don't know of any which give it the importance it deserves aside from this book, and I've never seen the case stated with, simultaneously, such practicality and eloquence. It is the meeting of those two qualities which makes Trimble's book unique.
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on January 19, 2001
Everyone knows about and owns a copy of Strunk and White, but I found this little book by Trimble to be a lot more useful and probably more relevant to writing today.
If I were to teach a writing course (unlikely as it sounds), I'd be sure to have all my students buy a copy of this to supplement their writing practice.
The highlight of this book, I think, is Trimble's comments on style. He has a great chapter on 'Superstitions' of writing. Still think that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition? Not so. The best response to someone who insists that you should is to tell the short anecdote about Churchill, as Trimble does: "When the prime minister--a Nobel Laureate in literature--found that an editor of his memoirs had had the cheek to 'correct' one of his sentences ending in a preposition, he wrote back, 'This is the kind of impertinence up with which I shall not put.'"
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on March 31, 2000
This book was assigned in a graduate-level research methods class in geography. I generallly do not hold much hope for writer's "manuals," but Trimble's slim volume is so much more. His own writing is clear, honest, and pithy. I make all of my senior research students read it now, as a professor, and it's by far the best small treatise on the subject. It could be used side-by-side with Strunk&White's Elements of Style seamlessly. Get it!
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on June 22, 2001
As a student of John's, I was amazed by his ability to create an environment where neurotic college students felt completely comfortable sharing their work with very talented peers. As someone who now makes a living stringing words together, I credit him with teaching me to write honestly, conversationally and effectively. Reading his book is a lot like returning to a class: He nurtures, nudges, inspires, excites, and never, ever condescends. And, as always, he's charming as all get-out. I've bought at least half a dozen copies of "Writing with Style"--when I give it to writer friends, I never get it back.
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on November 16, 2013
Years ago, I read Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams, and I recently bought Trimble's book to compare the two books. Because Joseph Williams treated the topics of style and clarity so comprehensively, I did not expect to learn anything new in Trimble's book. I was wrong.

I wish I had started with Trimble's book. If you are interested in improving your writing--particularly expository writing--I would recommend starting with Trimble's book before moving on to the Joseph Williams book for a more detailed treatment of the subject. One of the things I found most useful in Trimble's book was his advice on how to plan and write an essay, which made me wish I had read this book in high school or college. If you are a student and have to write any type of essay or report, read this book.
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on December 11, 2002
Reading Trimble's style guide changed my writing forever. In this book, Trimble explains the thought process of a good writer, and he makes his point so well that, since reading it, I have permanently conditioned myself to think in way he describes.
This style guide is more an essay on good writing than a reference book. Trimble focuses more on the thought process of a writer than on details. He exhorts us to always consider the audience as we write, and he carefully explains how to do this. He explains the writing process; how to construct the text to best communicate the point. He gives useful advice on common writing tasks like quoting and punctuating.
My favorite chapter is where he debunks some myths about the English language; these myths are arbitrary rules that had been thrust upon us by rigid prescriptive grammarians trying to make English more like Latin.
I first read an older edition of the book for an English class as high school senior about eight years ago. Reading this book made me excited about writing; Trimble writes in such as way that builds interest. I read the book cover to cover and immediately adopted the practices recommended in it. Unfortunately, in high school, they only lent textbooks, so I had to give it back. About eight years later, I repurchased the new edition of this book. Oddly enough, rereading it was kind of a waste of time, for I had learned the lessons well the first time and they had stuck with me. Trimble hadn't just given me good advice; he had permanently changed me.
I recommend that everyone who writes get this book, read it, and do what the book says.
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on July 30, 2013
I have to be honest. Reading a book about writing is not something that I get excited about. I'm not sure who does. But Trimble takes what is sometimes seen as a daunting task and makes it engaging, entertaining, and enjoyable. I've learned a ton about writing with style. If Trimble would write a book called "Dressing with Style", my wife would buy it for me.
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on May 19, 2016
This book inspired me to become a better writer, not because it is an "instruction manual," but because the passion with which the mechanics of writing are discussed is palpable. I was assigned to read this book in a medical science writing course, and have applied the lessons I've learned to science writing ever since. It is useful for all types of prose--technical, persuasive, expository, or other. I had no idea how excited I could be about punctuation until reading this book. My writing has improved enormously since reading "Writing with Style" because I became very aware of the effect that small changes in syntax and structure can have on written communication. Any time that I feel a lack of inspiration or have writer's block, I pick this book up again because it always reignites my passion for the written word. A must for all writers of all fields. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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on August 16, 2011
In outlining the process for good writing, John Trimble focuses not only on the writing process but on the definition of good writing. His style is evidence that he knows his stuff: rather than being stiff, his writing is easy to read and easy to access. In fact, he hits the bulls-eye when he states that good writers are also good readers. Mimic first, go beyond second. In addition, the zero draft is genius: much better than calling the writing "prewriting" or even the "rough draft." His rationale makes sense, too, for this process. Great for writers and writing teachers.
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on July 19, 2016
This is the best guide for beginner writers on the market. Why? It's fun to read and it is short. I misplaced my copy from s college course (lent it to the wrong person) and my husband purchased a copy for me for our anniversary several years later. I cried (because I was so happy). If that isn't a good sign, I don't know what is. Who needs jewelry when you know how to write with style!
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