Monday, February 04, 2013

Everyone Who Writes (And That’s Most of Us) Needs This Book

As a journalism professor at the University of Delaware, Ben Yagoda has years of experience of reading student assignments. That experience is sifted and poured into HOW NOT TO WRITE BAD. This entertaining look at language is informative and everyone who reads it will profit from this book.

As he writes in the introduction, “Words are the building blocks of sentences, and sentences are the building blocks of any piece of writing; consequently, I focus on these basics. As far as I’m concerned, not writing badly consists of the ability, first, to craft sentences that are correct in terms of spelling, diction (that is, word choice), punctuation, and grammar, and that display clarity, precision, and grace. Once that’s mastered, there are a few more areas that have to be addressed in crafting a whole paragraph,: cadence, consistency of tone, word repetition, transitions between sentences, paragraph length. And that’s all there is to it! (I know, I know. That’s plenty.) I’ve mentioned students but this book isn’t just for classroom use. It’s for everyone who wants to improve his or her prose.” (Page 3)

You will want to keep your yellow highlighter handy as you read this book. I enjoyed Yagoda’s pointed look at different aspects of writing such as spelling: “Spell-check programs are great. Spell-check programs are a disaster. Let me explain…” (Page 59) or “The cliché is the poster child of bad writing. And that, my friends, is a cliché. Clichés are bad because they are tired, overdone, unoriginal, dull and mindless. They make you seem like everybody else, not like an individual with an interesting perspective and a voice that deserves to be listened to.” (Page 124)
HOW NOT TO WRITE BAD is a book that I recommend.

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