The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Brought to you by Penguin.
Bad writing can't be blamed on the internet or on 'the kids today'. Good writing has always been hard: a performance requiring pretence, empathy and a drive for coherence. In The Sense of Style, cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker uses the latest scientific insights to bring us a style and usage guide for the 21st century. What do skilful writers know about the link between syntax and ideas? How can we overcome the Curse of Knowledge, the difficulty in imagining what it's like not to know something we do? And can we distinguish the myths and superstitions from rules that enhance clarity and grace? As Pinker shows, everyone can improve their mastery of writing and their appreciation of the art (yes, 'their').
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 26 minutes|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||31 October 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 37,733 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
31 in Linguistics (Audible Books & Originals)
108 in Words, Language & Grammar Reference
140 in Linguistics Reference
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Top reviews from Australia
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Pinker has done an excellent job of creating a readable persuasive style guide to the English language. He argues against some out-dated writing advice. I think this will be the reference to judge style guides against.
However, I found the final chapter to be confusing. This contrasted strongly with the preceding chapters. I could have been overwhelmed by the quantity and advice given. Whatever the reason, I lost my way and came away disappointed.
It tells you
* How to make a paragraph be coherent
- when your sentences *should* use passive voice
- keep the topic as the subject of a sentence
- switch topics by using the next topic as the object of the linking sentence
* Write about things people could visualise by default
* When to use a nominalization ("The governor canceled the convention today. The cancellation...")
* How to order other information within a sentence to make it more understandable
You should read this book while you're a few drafts deep in writing something. Read a bit of Steven's book; check your work against his advice; fix your errors.
Top reviews from other countries
However, I agree with others that this is not a read for someone with only a casual interest in the subject, or someone looking for a prescriptive guide to writing well; you need a real delight in language and its use to push on to the end. So, yes, some of it is quite hard going. But, speaking of the end, for me, the last few paragraphs on the principles governing critical thinking and factual diligence were worth the price of the book alone. Wise and powerful advice for any thoughtful person, whether a writer or not.
I hope you find my review helpful.
The first couple of chapters are superb and much more the sort of thing I was expecting: Professor Pinker gives us examples of writers’ prose and explains to us what makes them so good. The remainder – and bulk - of the book is an examination of grammar, usage and punctuation. One chapter, featuring tree diagrams of sentence structure, is exceedingly complicated and, it must be said, extremely boring. Personally, I would have liked to have heard more about prosody, defined by the author in his excellent glossary as “the melody, timing, and rhythm of speech”. (Not keen on that Oxford comma myself.)
Fortunately, Steven Pinker is a very entertaining writer; he throws in jokes and witty asides and some very funny cartoons. It is certainly unusual to find Yiddishisms in a guide to writing better English! He is pleasingly relaxed about the rules too; above all, writers should make themselves clear to their readers. If a sentence has to be read through a second time, it hasn’t worked. All in all, I would say this is a worthwhile addition to the reference bookshelf….though the professor has made me more nervous about my writing rather than more confident. I’m pretty sure this was not his intention!
It is well researched and offers many examples and it is up to date: can you use "they" to avoid sexist language and can you use "they" in singular? Purists will frown and object and state that by writing 'he' it should be enough but a sentence such as "Is it your brother or your sister who can hold his breath for over four minutes?" shows this does not work.
This book explores language and assists me on my journey to improve and learn. I highly recommend it.
Finally, if you are looking for a book that can point you in the right direction to become a better writer, I would recommend First You Write A Sentence by Joe Moran, an absolute gem.