Fatter and more complex than Strunk and White, and some of the more technical arguments may make this a tough sell on the...



Yet another how-to book on writing? Indeed, but this is one of the best to come along in many years, a model of intelligent signposting and syntactical comportment.

It’s a strange thing, but many guidebooks on writing are written by people who’ve written only books on how to write. Not so Pinker’s. Though being a linguist, as he is, doesn’t make a writer any more than putting air in an airplane wheel makes a pilot, he’s also got numerous best-selling books (e.g., The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, 2011, etc.) behind him—and even that doesn’t make him an expert, so we’re lucky that, like fellow manual writer Stephen King, he’s blessed with common sense. As a linguist, Pinker inclines to descriptivism but doesn’t rule out prescriptivism entirely. “The primary lifeline between an incoming sentence and a reader’s web of knowledge is the topic,” he writes, carefully separating the different senses of the term “topic” in the realms of linguistics and grammar before discussing such common-sensical things as orderly transitions, logical coordination and pronoun/antecedent agreement. The author insists that any writer must be an “avid” reader, and he takes many of his examples from current literature to support pronouncements such as, “But if the subject matter is unfamiliar and has many parts, and if the writer doesn’t set the reader up by focusing on one of those parts as a fact worth taking seriously, the reader may not know what he should no longer be thinking.” Allowing for the “the reader/he” convention, there’s nothing objectionable to that observation or, indeed, to most of the book, even if Pinker courts anarchy by allowing the distinction between “less” and “fewer” to collapse.

Fatter and more complex than Strunk and White, and some of the more technical arguments may make this a tough sell on the first-year comp front. Still, Pinker’s vade mecum is a worthy addition to any writer’s library.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02585-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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