First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing . . . and Life

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Penguin, Aug 13, 2019 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 240 pages
2 Reviews
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“Do you want to write clearer, livelier prose? This witty primer will help.” The New York Times Book Review

An exploration of how the most ordinary words can be turned into verbal constellations of extraordinary grace through the art of building sentences

The sentence is the common ground where every writer walks. A good sentence can be written (and read) by anyone if we simply give it the gift of our time, and it is as close as most of us will get to making something truly beautiful. Using minimal technical terms and sources ranging from the Bible and Shakespeare to George Orwell and Maggie Nelson, as well as scientific studies of what can best fire the reader's mind, author Joe Moran shows how we can all write in a way that is clear, compelling and alive.

Whether dealing with finding the ideal word, building a sentence, or constructing a paragraph, First You Write a Sentence informs by light example: much richer than a style guide, it can be read not only for instruction but for pleasure and delight. And along the way, it shows how good writing can help us notice the world, make ourselves known to others, and live more meaningful lives. It's an elegant gem in praise of the English sentence.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - waldhaus1 - LibraryThing

While ending with twenty rules about writing the book outs is really the authors travelogue about finding voice and clarity with the written word. It was a pleasure to read. An appreciated gift ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dtw42 - LibraryThing

A bit pretentious in places, perhaps. But the author certainly practised what he preached, because it was lucid and pleasurable to read - indeed, I found myself reading bits of it aloud … to myself. Read full review


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Nothing Like a Windowpane
The Highwire
Foolish Like a Trout
A Small Good Thing
Twenty Sentences on Sentences

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About the author (2019)

Joe Moran is a professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University.

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