Sunday, February 3, 2013

Five books on Writing and Grammar


I have a vast assortment of grammar and writing books in my personal library. Every morning I read a chapter from two or three at a time.  After reading them, I post a review on my blog. I hope other writers find these reviews helpful.  Here are five books I've just finished reading.


The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.  and E.B. White 

     William Strunk, Jr. was E.B. White’s language professor at Cornell at the end of WWI.  After White became a famous writer, he brought his former teacher’s textbook out of obscurity and revised and updated it.  The result is an amalgam of both Strunk’s original text book and White’s own expertise on how to write
 It includes the basic grammar rules that are essential to know and chapters on how to compose something as brief as a sentence or paragraph to something as large as an entire novel.  Their best is advice is on how to rid your writing of pretention.  They devote a chapter on using definite, specific, concrete language and another on how to omit needless words.  I found the chapter on where to place the emphatic word of a sentence to be especially helpful. 

An enormous section in the middle lists pages of words and expressions that are commonly misused.  The remainder of the book gives specific directions on how to approach style.  They discuss how to think out the background of your story, how to revise, not overstate or explain too much plus many other invaluable advice that have guided many successful writers for the past several years.  I bought this book because it was recommended by so many other “how to write’ authors.  I also recommend it.





Writing Tools:  50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is divided up into (naturally) 50 chapters that each deal with a specific topic on writing.  The chapters are short and include exercises in order to practice what you learned. 

  Like Strunk and White, Clark’s first section concerns itself with mechanics:  order of words for emphasis, activating your verbs, minimize the use of adverbs, and so on.  The next section goes into coloring your language and giving it a unique voice.    Part three lists techniques that help the writer differentiate between reports, stories, how to use dialogue to move the story along, how to generate suspense-to name a few.  The final section discusses how to create a backdrop for your writing environment and how to develop useful habits to become a disciplined, successful writer.

 Writing Tools is a quick read.  Clark’s fluid and witty writing is a testimony to his own ability as a writer.  I highly recommend this book as a valuable addition to the writer’s working library.




Writer to Writer:  a Practical Handbook on The Craft of Writing from idea to Contract by Bodie and Brock Thoene.

A good friend of mine moved to another country.  Before she left, she let me take any books of hers I wanted.  One of the books was Writer to Writer by Bodie and Brock Thoene.

Writer to writer was written in 1990 so it’s important to read the book inside the context that some of the content is a little outdated.  Nevertheless, they still have a lot of good, encouraging advice to the aspiring writer.  Their own story is very inspiring on how they started out as unknowns and, through definite strategies and perseverance came to be scriptwriters for Hollywood as well as successful article writers for magazines.  They give a lot of concrete, no nonsense, advice about querying agents and submitting articles to magazines.  


English Handbook for Christian Schools by Grace C. Collins
This is a grammar book from Bob Jones University.  The director of a Christian school gave me the book because he knew I was a writer.  As dry as this book sounds, it’s a great book that covers every part of the mechanics of writing and uses quite a bit of humor to boot.  Since it's a grammar book for students, there are a lot of exercises to practice what you learned (answers are in the back). It is probably about the best book on grammar I’ve read. One thing it includes that the others lack:  The flyleaf contains correction symbols.




One more:  My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me?:  How to Speak and Write It Right by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines

This is a great book filled with all the common sense grammatical rules that we learned at school but aren’t sure about anymore.  The writers cover all the basics from spelling, parts of speech, punctuation and elements of style and they do it with a great sense of humor.  My Grammar serves as a great refresher and does it in a way that is a lot more fun than I ever remember it being in school.  This book should also be on a writer’s reference library. 

  
With the exception of Writer to Writer and English Handbook for Christian Schools, I bought all of these books.










Buy on Kindle for $2.99




12 comments:

  1. Good Morning!
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  2. Though not an aspiring writer, I could certainly use assistance with grammar. I really need to pick up one or more of these books. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Brian: Then you'd probably enjoy "My Grammar and I.." the best. It's cute and funny and a good refresher for all that grammar we learned in 9th grade English.

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  3. Love Strunk and White. Although not strictly a book about grammar, Stephen King's On Writing is an excellent resource as well.

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    1. Ryan: Others have told me about King's book on writing as well. If I have time I'll have to try to read it.

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  4. Trivia: The "White" of "Strunk and White" also wrote children's books, including "Charlotte's Web" and "The Trumpet of the Swan". (The latter, if you've never read it has several sections that read like someone needed to vent frustration with bad writing)

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    1. Capplor: That's funny. I didn't notice that about The Trumpet of the Swan. I'll have to reread it, although I have to say that I didn't enjoy it as much as I did Charlotte's Web.
      Now here's some trivia for you: did you know that E.B. White was also a humorist. He wrote and edited an old book called the American Treasury of Humor. I have a copy that was owned by my grandparents. He's a very funny guy.

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