Thoughtful ruminations about current language mixed with praise for clarity and disdain for murkiness.



Although this is yet another how-to, self-help text for would-be writers—with some of the usual hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing about the abuses of English today—this one merits more attention because it comes from the keyboard of a celebrated journalist and editor.

Reuters editor at large Evans (My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, 2009), who has been an editor of the Times and the Sunday Times, chronicles the many aspects of writing and language that annoy him. Some of his principal targets include obfuscation, misused and/or abused words, long introductory phrases or clauses, overlong sentences, clichés, and grammatical stumbles (dangling participles, superfluous adverbs, and their foul kin. The author is mellower about ending sentences with prepositions (noting this was a nonsensical proscription from the beginning) and sentence fragments. A sentence “expresses a complete thought,” he reminds us, and complete thoughts do not always feature a subject and verb. Evans begins with a fine chapter that could stand alone: an overview of what he’s doing and why. He moves along to some sections about the abuses of those in the business, legal, political, and educational worlds. In the penultimate section, the author offers examples of writers in the right, Roger Angell, and Barbara Demick among them. In between is a mixture of portions of published texts that Evans re-edits for our edification; lists (sometimes too long) of clichés, phrases that writers can easily shorten, and words that writers misuse/confuse—e.g., “appraise and “apprise, “insidious” and “invidious.” Readers may take some smug delight in the authors’ own use of the passive voice and his pluralizing of Humpty (as in Dumpty) with “Humpties” (does Billy become Billies?). But who’s perfect?

Thoughtful ruminations about current language mixed with praise for clarity and disdain for murkiness.

Pub Date: May 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-27717-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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