Understanding Style Practical Ways to Improve Your Writing

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-06-18
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Many writers view style as a dreaded Bermuda Triangle--they have no idea how to improve anything they have written. This book dispels much of that mystery, using the findings of modern linguistics to explore the relationship between written and spoken voices and to uncover little-known ways to control rhythm and emphasis. With a focus on sound and voice, author Joe Glaser explains and illustrates measurable, non-subjective keys to good writing--an approach that yields practical writing techniques and advice rarely found elsewhere. An excellent choice for courses in advanced composition, the book also covers more standard topics such as economy, diction, coherence, and variety--along with abundant open-ended exercises drawn from business, history, popular science, and other areas. Each chapter includes a final, quick-reference summary and a "Your Writing" assignment that readers can apply directly to their own work. Updated throughout, the Second Edition emphasizes word processing and Internet resources and includes a new chapter on subjects and predicates. The book also features a glossary of writing terms, a brief dictionary of usage, a guide to punctuation, and a detailed index. Exercises, sample answers, analytical tools, writing links, and other helps are available on the author's website at http://www.wku.edu/~joe.glaser/style%20home%20page.html.

Table of Contents

Part One: What Style Is: Good and Bad Writing
Chapter 1: Voices You Want To Listen To: Elements of a Written Voice
Voice and the Sound Qualities of Writing
Voice and the Writing Situation
Grammar and Voice
Diction and Voice
Avoiding Discriminatory Language
A Gallery of Voices
Points to Remember
Chapter 2: Voices That Put You Off: Common Modes of Bad Writing
The Professional Terror
The Creative Genius
The Sleepwalker
The Clunker
Points to Remember
Chapter 3: Two Common Problems: Overwriting and Underwriting
Eliminating Deadwood
How Much Cutting Is Enough?
Varieties of Deadwood
Verbal Filler
A Caution Against Underwriting
Points to Remember
Part Two: Accurate, Effective Word Choice
Chapter 4: Finding the Right Words: What's in a Name?
A World of Words
Types of Diction
Formal and Informal Words
General and Particular Words
Abstract and Concrete Words
Long and Short Words
Learned and Commonplace Words
Points to Remember
Chapter 5: Finding Fresh Words: Clichés, Usage, Quoting, Figurative Language
Clichés Beat a Hasty Retreat
Usage Cranks and Usage Demons
Some Notes on Quoting
Figurative Language
Points to Remember
Part Three: Clear Subjects and Lively Verbs
Chapter 6: Subjects and Predicates
Standard Sentence Order and "You-Understood"
Subjects in Dependent Clauses
Types of Dependent Clauses
Coordinate Clauses
Multiple Predicates and Predicates in Dependent Clauses
Points to Remember
Chapter 7: Naming Definite Actors and Actions
Naming Definite Actors
Avoiding Indefinite Actors
The Problem of Nominalizations
Naming Definite Actions
Avoiding Weak Verbs: to be
Other Weak Verbs
Unnecessary Auxiliaries
Unnecessary Passive Verbs
Keeping Actors and Actions Together
Points to Remember
Part Four: Making Connections: Coherence and Emphasis
Chapter 8: Coherence: Making Sentences Connect
Maintaining Related Grammatical Subjects
Patterns of Old and New Information
Reinforcing Coherence with Transitional Devices
Reinforcing Coherence with Coordinate Structures
Reinforcing Coherence with Subordinate Structures
Points to Remember
Chapter 9: Assigning Emphasis
Nuclear Emphasis
Coming to a Good End
Nuclear Stress in Lesser Breath Units
A Note on Punctuation
Patterns of Emphasis
Using Grammatical Transformations To Shift
Emphasis Through Grammatical Bulk
Points to Remember
Part Five: Changing the Pace: Rhythmic and Grammatical Variety
Chapter 10: Controlling Rhythm
Sentence Rhythms
Types of Breath Units
Avoiding Overlong Breath Units
Using Breath Units to Control Rhythm
Using Stress to Control Rhythm
Using Long and Short Words to Control Rhythm
Points To Remember
Chapter 11: Grammatical Variety
How Sentences Become Complex
Grammatical Variety in Context
Varying Sentence Structure with Nominals
Varying Sentence Structure with Adjectivals
Varying Sentence Structure with Adverbials
Varying Sentence Structure with Parallel Construction
Grammatical Emphasis
Points to Remember
Part Six: Quick Fixes
Chapter 12: Rules of Thumb
Start most sentences with the subject
Make your subjects definitely named actors
Make your verbs name definite actions
Write mostly in independent clauses
Keep subjects and verbs close together
Keep verbs and complements close together
Use single verbs with multiple subjects. Use single subjects with multiple verbs.
Favor the active voice
Choose positive rather than negative constructions
Focus each sentence on the ideas expressed by the subject and predicate
Mix long and short sentences
End sentences with a bang, not a whimper
Points To Remember
Appendix A: A Brief Dictionary of Usage
Appendix B: Alphabetical Guide to Punctuation
Appendix C: Glossary

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