There are great guides to creating and improving sentences here. The book discusses repetition, emphasis and flow in a clear, concise way. As before, I found the examples to be some of the most interesting parts of the book. They discuss topics from history, relatively current affairs, sociology, education and many other topics. I would love to know how and why the subjects were chosen!
This book does a pretty good job of giving clear examples of why things should be a certain way. The examples for things like number agreement and other issues commonly messed up, especially in everyday speech, are especially strong. I really am extremely impressed with the clarity and organization of this book. I would absolutely recommend it as a good writing and grammar book.
Verbs are why English is such a complicated language. Over 200 verbs are irregular and there isn’t really any way to make learning them any easier – each simply needs to be learned individually.
This book does a good job giving examples and practice passages. I wonder where those sentences and paragraphs come from, though. Do they find them somewhere or is there someone who wrote a whole bunch of random passage for them? It would be interesting to see how this book was written.
This book begins with a wonderful explanation of how reading, writing and thinking are linked skills. I actually wish that the writer had taken the time to expand that idea more.
The discussion of essay writing is very clearly geared to school papers. While the text occasionally acknowledges that there may be other valid ways to structure an essay, all of the explanations, examples and exercises show only classroom basic styles.
It amuses me that I am reading this and Mark Twain at the same time.
The last section of this book was all “Sacred Eloquence” practice speeches. Some were very good, but more than a few focused on why it’s “necessary” to convert the world to Christianity and how absurd it is for an educated person not to be a Christian. There were even pieces about how impossible it is for government to work without religion or for people to act morally without it. The problem is that none of the arguments really worked. It was kind of weird. I felt like not only had none of these writers ever actually met someone who wasn’t Christian, but they just couldn’t imagine what it might be like to think or live in any way other than theirs. I felt like they lived in very sad, tiny worlds (and, unfortunately, there are still quite a few people who think that way).
There are some great selections in here. I’ve really enjoyed reading this book. I wish that the practice speeches were attributed better, since some I would like to read more of or learn more about some of them, but I don’t know where to find them. There are several anti-slavery pieces, which is wonderful, but also several pieces discussing the evils and dangers of Native Americans. It’s certainly an interesting collection and I wish Mr. Porter had said more about how he chose what to include!
This is a fascinating book. Unlike most instructional books of this nature today, there is no attempt by the author to either neutralize his presence in the text or to avoid commentaries on previous works or the subject which the student is not actually expected to be familiar with. Many of Mr. Porter’s comments (some of them rather extended) appear to be part of some kind of scholarly rivalry based on a fundamental disagreement about core principles relating to the subject. While these types of rivalries still very much exist, they rarely make it into writings intended to instruct beginning students. Of course, this may be partially because students are no longer as involved in academic discussions as they were once both permitted and expected to be. Anyhow, I’m enjoying the book very much and think this type of study of rhetoric could be very useful for many people who haven’t had access to it today (not to mention some of the lessons to priests and ministers would be useful to many people in those professions who seem not to get the same training or advice today). It’s too bad none of the public speaking classes I had growing up covered useful things like this. They were all focused more on format and less on actual delivery, which is a really big shame, since poor delivery will ruin the best speech and good delivery can make a poor speech appealing to listen to!
This is an absolutely fascinating book so far. It’s really interesting and incredibly illuminating. I am surprised at how little everyday speech has apparently chanted since this book was written because he accurately describes many of the most common American accents today. It’s fun to read this book – physically hold it and smell it and turn the pages, since it’s so very old. I find myself wondering who else held this book and turned these pages! The author has some great comments about Shakespeare and I’m looking forward to reading more of them.
I’m not sure what to think of the reader’s guide at the end of the this book. It wasn’t awful, but it made me wonder more about who made it than it made me think about the book. Who was the interviewer and who wrote the questions? They were very reporterish questions and fell into many standard press pitfalls. It was really odd and did not feel like a “reader’s companion”. I guess I just felt like in some ways they missed the point. And what was with the question about the framers of the Constitution? It made little to no sense and even Tannen kind of said that! The whole thing was just weird. I think I stick by my position of disliking reader’s guides.
This is an interesting book. I certainly agree with her assessment that schools and the culture of academia are very adversarial. I rather wish they weren’t, but that’s one of the biggest things that I dislike about our educational system, beginning to end. I was surprised when Tannen mentioned that disagreeing with something is the most common way to write a paper, and often done even when the writer does not genuinely disagree as they claim to. Such a thing has never occurred to me and few of my papers center around a disagreement with something else. I would feel too weird lying in a paper like that. I couldn’t do it. I have written papers I later came to decide were incorrect in their logic or interpretation of something, but I always wrote it honestly believing it at the time. I just can’t imagine flat out lying in a paper. I hope that I never feel the need to do that or, worse, actually do it!
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