Read: The Elements of Eloquence

  • That’s how a book should be: Entertaining, instructive, to the point.

    I had to force myself to read Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence in two sittings, otherwise I would have finished it in one go, in just one evening. That’s how much I enjoyed it.

    In 39 brief chapters, to whole book is just 205 pages long, Forsyth defines and demonstrates 39 different rhetorical moves using examples from the Classics (often Shakespeare) and modern authors that can turn an ordinary piece of prose and poetry into a perfect, memorable phrase. Of course, he applies the respective rhetoric principle himself in each of the chapters, in an inconspicuous way. Hence, discovering it contributes to the enjoyment and serves as a kind of comprehension test.

    The only negative feature of the book is the sometimes forced transition to the next chapter, to the next rhetoric move. Each chapter ends with an example for the next topic that also, somehow belongs to the current one.

    That notwithstanding, Forsyth’s blog made it into my feed reader. I want to read more of this.

Read: Style - Lessons in Clarity and Grace

  • Maybe two or three years ago I already read “Style - Toward Clarity and Grace” which is a version of Style for a more general audience based on an older textbook edition. By now I have read quite a few (text)books on writing, especially on writing in economics; it is, at the end of the day, how I earn my living. So I should put some effort in it. Reading the 9th edition of the textbook is, however, not really an effort. It is quite enjoyable. The reason, of course, is that Williams put quite some effort into writing and over the years constantly revising it.

    Unfortunately, just reading the book is not enough. Williams himself gives a nice metaphor explaining why: Knowing all the ingredients does not make you a good cook. And, I have to admit I did not do the exercises.

    Nevertheless, I think I learned at lot from his advise. I noticed how my personal style and approach of revising my texts changed since I left school, since I finished my studies, and since I first read Style. I wish there was something similar in content and style for my native tongue. And that it would be taught at school and first year courses at universities – for both languages.

    An interesting and important part of the later Style editions is a chapter on the ethics of style. How we can be fooled by an author’s rhetoric. How we can see through such attempts.