Simple & Direct Paperback – Nov 30 2001
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Rare is the book that causes one to consider--ponder? appraise? examine? inspect? contemplate?--one's every word. Simple & Direct, a classic text on the craft of writing by the educator Jacques Barzun, does so--with style. His object, says Barzun, is "to resensitize the mind to words." Do not use a word unless you know both its meaning and its connotations, its "quality" and its "atmosphere," and the ways in which it joins with other words. Barzun is an exacting taskmaster, railing against abstractions, "fancy" wordings, contemporary slang (which "prey[s] upon the vocabulary rather than nourish[es] it"), misprints ("it is rudeness to let them appear"), and the like. He bemoans what he sees as "a fury at work in the people to make war on hyphens," and he loathes those new words, such as condominium, that have been "cobbled together out of shavings and leftovers."
Still, no stodgy codger he. Barzun merely asks that you "have a point and make it by means of the best word." If that means splitting an infinitive or substituting a "which" for a "that," so be it. Just be sure that the decision to do so is conscious and informed. Once you've found the right word, you can move on to writing sentences and then leaning them against one another until they form paragraphs. Only when you've gotten it all down, says Barzun, should you allow yourself the pleasure of revision. "Unlike the sculptor," he says, "the writer can start carving and enjoying himself only after he has dug the marble out of his own head." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Born in France in 1907, Jacques Barzun came to the United States in 1920.After graduating from Columbia College, he joined the faculty of the university, becoming Seth Low Professor of History and, for a decade, Dean of Faculties and Provost.The author of some thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller From Dawn to Decadence, he received the Gold Medal for Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he was twice president. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.
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Top Customer Reviews
As to another review, modern linguistic research has little to do with learning to produce a composition in English? Additonally in that review, the not-so-thinly veiled ad hominem attack on Barzun as being "pompous" and "nasty" has little to do with the merits of the book and do not constitute a review.
I certainly recommend the book for some excellent insight on how to write properly. Be prepared to work at it a bit, but that's as it should be; correct English writing requires some effort.
Only after one has internalized the Taskmasters and made their advice an ingrained habit can one then go on to profit from such excellent books as Joseph Williams's "Style," Thomas Kane's "Oxford Essential Guide to Writing," and Arthur Quinn's "Figures of Speech".
As a news and documentary producer and news director, I found Barzun's prescriptions on prose style a reliable guide for editng my own work and others as well.
Barzun's approach can be a bit irritating at first because he tends to be fairly prissy about style, but if you can get past that, you begin to perceive the prissiness as a tight focus on precision of the type that is lacking in much modern prose writing.
His main rule is one I paraphrased at the first meeting of every newswriting class...that there are only two reasons for producing bad writing; either you don't know what you're writing about, or you don't know how to write about it.
I lost my copy of Barzun years ago. I think one of my students walked off with it. If so, I hope he or she is using it. I'm glad to know it's still available.
Most recent customer reviews
A great guide for making sense, though going in for the kill might take more daring than sense. The intro is almost worth the price!Published on April 24 2013 by Richard Armin
If one desires to mould one's prose around the lumpy and shifting shapes thrown up by statistical sampling -- in other words, according to the latest results of the human... Read morePublished on Feb. 21 2000 by George Formby