Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Read more...
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Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?
In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.
In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.
Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Forget Strunk and White’s rules—cognitive science is a surer basis for clear and cogent writing, according to this iconoclastic guide from bestselling Harvard psycholinguist Pinker (The Language Instinct). Pinker deploys history, logic, and his own deep understanding of language to debunk many prescriptivist grammatical strictures: go ahead and split that infinitive, he declares, start a sentence with a conjunction, and use passive constructions when they improve a sentence’s legibility. (He does give vent to a few of his own prescriptivist peeves, such as the use “literally” to mean “figuratively”). More broadly, he explains how the brain processes language into principles of sound writing, recommending a “classic prose style” that concretely directs the reader’s gaze at the world, deploring the “curse of knowledge” that leads academics to believe that readers understand their jargon, and mounting a spot-on critique of incoherent argumentation in a passage by military historian John Keegan. Pinker’s linguistic theory can be heavy going at times, but his prose is usually a model of clarity, lightly-worn erudition, and keen insight. Every writer can profit from—and every reader can enjoy—Pinker’s analysis of the ways in which skillfully chosen words engage the mind. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Sept.)