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

  • Feb 4, 2013
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 cr5aft 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.
Everyone Who Writes (And That's Most of Us) Needs This Book Everyone Who Writes (And That's Most of Us) Needs This Book

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About the reviewer
W. Terry Whalin ()
Ranked #120
I am an Acquisitions Editor at Morgan James Publishing. I have written more than 60 books for traditional publishers and for more than 50 magazines. My blog on The Writing Life has more than 1,100 searchable … more
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Praise for Memoir: A History
"Spirited... Yagoda's incisive exploration is a worthy study of a genre that even now cannot completely be defined." -- Los Angeles Times

“Perceptive, thorough, and amusing.”-- New York Magazine

“This idea-driven cultural criticism leads to all kinds of interesting places.” -- Christian Science Monitor

“Ben Yagoda is one of the most subtle—and entertaining—writers about writing one can find. His history of the memoir reads between the lines—and the lies—with illuminating precision.” —Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars

“We owe Ben Yagoda such a huge debt of thanks: his witty, comprehensive, and insightful ‘biography’ of the form reminds us why the memoir matters – and will continue to matter as long as humans think, read, and write. This is literary criticism at its lively best.” —David Friedman, author of A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis and The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever

“A shrewd and witty history of memoir sweeps us from Julius Caesar to James Frey. Our guide, Ben Yagoda, is always fine company, with just the right word, kindly good judgment, and another great story coming up on the next page. It's a splendid journey.” —Richard Ben Cramer, author of Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life and How ...
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