A boon to all language lovers, as well as those specifically interested in the history of English writing and...

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THE ART OF SPELLING

THE MADNESS AND THE METHOD

Parade magazine columnist vos Savant takes the reader on an entertaining and illuminating journey into the confused world of English orthography.

Who hasn't complained about the pitfalls of English spelling? The problem, vos Savant suggests, began in the sixth century, when the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity and switched from the runic to the Roman writing system, whose Latin alphabet was inadequate for spoken English. The influx of immigrants during the Middle Ages, periods of French domination, and multiplicity of dialects just made the problem worse, and the stabilization of spelling between 1400 and 1600 did not record dramatic phonetic changes. Though calls for a spelling reform have periodically sounded ever since, lexicographers presume that no imposed standard would capture the dynamics of the language, which is in constant flux. So, brace yourselves for more discrepancies between the spoken and written word. Vos Savant will at least make insecure spellers happy, as she states that there is no direct correlation between spelling performance and general intelligence. However, a reader survey yielding 42,000 responses indicates that spelling ability is linked to some personality traits. For instance, detail-oriented, organized people are likely to be top spellers, and deficiency in pronunciation skills leads to more mistakes in writing. Vos Savant provides several easy tests to enable readers to determine their most typical spelling errors, along with helpful hints for improvement. The book also contains a set of rules and a list of commonly misspelled words. But the author is no fan of computer spellchecking, one of the many forms of modern technology she believes have a potentially negative effect of on spelling.

A boon to all language lovers, as well as those specifically interested in the history of English writing and psycholinguistics—and perhaps a therapeutic and educational read for poor spellers as well.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04903-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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