Moran writes fluidly and elegantly, offering practical advice on giving one's writing texture and verve.




A dense yet splendid “style guide by stealth” that reads like a two-semester course in English composition distilled into a two-week treatise.

The question is how, apart from multiple readings, one might absorb all the wisdom in a single gulp. Moran (English and Cultural History/Liverpool John Moores Univ.; Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness, 2017, etc.) believes that by “mastering” one of the fundamental building blocks of language—the sentence—we learn not merely about writing, but about everything. It’s a sweeping claim, but Moran backs it up, giving us mostly trenchant sentences on the art of creating them. A sultan of syntax, he wants to show rather than teach, and he generally succeeds. He likens good prose to good poetry, both taking wing on the rhythm, meter, and music of language. Writing is an artisanal craft, or should be, employing meticulous care and execution. Moran extols the virtues of the plain style—like cooking, “a sentence should rely more on quality ingredients than baroque artifice”—but cautions against fetishizing the unadorned, introducing ways to make more elaborate sentences work. Whatever the style, good sentences give order to our thoughts and clarity to the reader, but they must also sing on the page and in the reader's mind. Moran links themes with illustrative asides, as in his short history of writing, but mainly, he critiques the common novice mistakes and veteran's misjudgments, demonstrating skillful alternatives. At times, the author will make even experienced writers feel inept, especially in his discussions of arcane grammatical terms. Still, his tone is comradely, not chiding. Oddly, one point Moran does not address is the element of talent. Everyone's writing can be improved, but all the technique in the world won't make a mediocre talent an exceptional one.

Moran writes fluidly and elegantly, offering practical advice on giving one's writing texture and verve.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313434-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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