An opinionated guide to strong writing that’s full of examples and coherent instructions for producing readable prose.
In this writing guide, Tadros (The Book of Death, 2013, etc.) leads readers through the fundamentals of word choice, grammatical construction and rhetorical techniques, with insights drawn from his experience as a writing instructor. Examples of active and passive verbs, modifiers and conjunctions are drawn from a variety of sources, and although some will be familiar to readers of writing handbooks, there are welcome flashes of originality, such as illustrating the value of occasionally breaking grammatical rules, e.g., the use of Apple’s “Think Different” slogan. Touches of wry humor, like the introduction of “FANBOYS” as a mnemonic device to remember coordinating conjunctions—for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so—bring another appealing element of originality to the already well-covered subject. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of writing techniques and, in addition to numerous examples, includes exercises for the reader. Addressing questions of usage and style, Tadros doesn’t hesitate to share his disapproval of some techniques: “Only self-important authors use turgid words such as utilise when a shorter, simpler word would better serve an audience.” (Yes, the book leans British.) While Tadros cautions readers against overblown prose, his own style often ventures into purple territory, as when he describes our “postmodern world infected with various strains of Staphylococcus relativism: a mind-dulling, host-disabling, culture-killing ideological parasite resistant to all forms of common sense and real-world experiences.” On the whole, however, the advice Tadros offers is balanced and reasonable, and it will bring both clarity and effectiveness to the writing of those who follow it.
An engaging and impassioned, if occasionally idiosyncratic, handbook for writers looking to achieve prose that is correct and elegant.