A clever, engaging, and delightful look at how people can be lax with the written and spoken word.

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From the Errors of Others

HOW TO AVOID EMBARRASSING MISTAKES IN WRITING AND SPEAKING

A lively, humorous debut compendium of communication don’ts.

In this highly readable debut, Lyles, a business-communication consultant with three decades of technical writing experience, documents the many misspellings, grammatical blunders, and ill-advised expressions that bedevil business writing and speech. The very short, self-contained essays make it easy to consume the book a few pages at a time. The author offers short chapters that specifically address public speaking, advertising, and wordplay, among other areas. Along the way, she covers a wide range of common errors, from the general (when to use “principle” or “principal,” for example) to the business-specific (how to create appropriate text for a presentation slide) to the everyday (examples of grammatically incorrect newspaper headlines). This multitude of examples is impressive enough, but the author’s keen observations are what lift the book above an ordinary collection of bloopers. Lyles has the ability to highlight the most egregious errors while also treating them with good humor rather than snarky sarcasm. In “Telltale Signs,” for example, she refers to actual signs she’s seen and answers them with signs of her own. For example, she answers “Shirts and Shoes Must be Worn” with “But Your Pants Can Be Brand New” and “Prepare to Stop When Flashing” with “At Least Button Trench Coat.” Her take on online-dating phrases is perceptive and hilarious; for instance, she says that when a man writes that he enjoys “Long walks on the beach…quiet evenings by the fire…candlelight dinners at home,” he really means “I’m cheap and I’ll never take you anywhere. And I expect you to cook.” Lyles is also sensitive to inflated speech patterns; she warns readers of potentially deceptive qualifiers, such as “To be perfectly honest” and “If you want to know the truth,” among others. This is an amusing, on-target collection crafted in a way that makes it easy to laugh at one’s own shortcomings.

A clever, engaging, and delightful look at how people can be lax with the written and spoken word. 

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4808-2847-6

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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