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Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing
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Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  362 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Whether you are working on the novel that's been in the back of your mind for years or simply facing an increasing demand to write well at work or school, the fact remains: more and more of us are writing more often these days-reports, e-mails, faxes, and newsletters. But despite the increase in written communication, something has been lost-the fundamentals of good writin ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published September 7th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
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Dec 06, 2012 Shoujo85 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
** This is a QUICK REVIEW of my thoughts on the book **

Very easy to read. Doesn’t feel old or dated despite being written a dozen years ago. A practical and humorous approach to improving your writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

Has lots of tips (with loads of simple and practical examples) on how to rearrange a perplexing or ambiguous sentence so the meaning becomes crystal clear. This is especially helpful when there are two or more people in a sentence and the ‘his’ (or ‘hers’) get
May 17, 2012 Beckie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Words Fail Me" is a practical and positively delightful writing book. Patricia O'Conner has a lovely sense of humor, and her style makes even well-known advice sound fresh. One expects much of the author of a writing book, and she delivers.
This book could be a quick read, unless the intention is to absorb all of the advice. The chapters are short and breezy, but they also contain a lot of wisdom. In other words, here's another short book that took a long time to read.
Some of the advice O'Conner
Douglas Florian
May 20, 2014 Douglas Florian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Patricia O'Connor has a way with words. And it's the right way and a witty way. From "Grammar Moses" to "Revise and Consent" this book steers writers, both green and jaded, to be more clear, engaging and aware in their work.
♥ Ibrahim ♥
This is a book I could read more than once and list as one of my favorites. Imagine a beloved mother teaching you how to write with style and she is coaching you along the way so you don't fall into certain pitfalls by force of habit, and she does it all with such a great sense of humor and full of zest..This is Patricia O'Conner! I love her books and I can just go back to read them over and over again for the fun of it. I feel like I am gleaning a lot and I am making lots of useful notes that w ...more
Emily Dy
Jun 18, 2011 Emily Dy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers and people who need to do a lot of writing
Shelves: writing
Back when I was still a newbie magazine writer, this book served as my intro to non-academic writing. Not only does O'Conner humorously tackle the major grammatical errors that writers make, she also dedicates a few chapters to issues such as thought organization, research and finding your writing routine.

This book is simple (and painless) enough for anyone to read - not just (beginner) professional writers but also anyone whose job requires him/her to do a lot of writing.

Seasoned writers may fi
Jared Caraway
May 31, 2014 Jared Caraway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing

O'Conner's book is as humorous and entertaining as it is informative and helpful. You get the sense that she enjoys the writing process, which counts for a lot (see also: Stephen King's On Writing, Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.

I recommend this for anybody who writes or is considering writing, be it fiction or nonfiction. I am an administrative assistant for the legal department of a large international company, and even though this book has a decidedly fiction-oriented slant, I was s

Oct 25, 2009 rabbitprincess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, editors, word nerds
* * * * 1/2

An excellent guide on writing from a very witty writer. The advice she provides is common sense: use small words, choose strong verbs, vary your sentence length, know your audience, and so on. She also acknowledges when some of her tips might not be as helpful: for example, if you're writing a boring scientific paper, the expected style is long sentences, indirect prose, and five-dollar words. The following anecdote brings that point home:

My husband once helped a French scientist tran
Glen Engel-Cox
It's one of life's little ironies that you find yourself engaging in things as you grow older that you hated when you were younger. Maybe hate is too strong a word. It wasn't that I hated grammar, but that I really didn't give it much thought, and felt that time spent in English class doing so was wasted. Since then, I've become not just a writer who wants to be read, but also a teacher of writing, who has to convince his students that grammar is important.

Having resources like this book by O'Co
Aug 10, 2015 Bea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Very informative and it went by like a breeze. It definitely made me reconsider the writing decisions I've made in the past and whether or not I could've done anything to make my writing better. I hope that, with everything I've learned from the book, I will become a better writer and that my pieces would start to make sense and go somewhere.

This is a great read, and it's funny.
Jan 31, 2016 E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very helpful advice, presented logically and with humor.
Potential readers take note, however: this book is vastly more geared towards writers of nonfiction than fiction, but the points raised are nevertheless applicable to just about any kind of writing.
Apr 04, 2013 C.G.Koens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-book-list
Patricia T. O'Conner has a knack for making grammar and all those "boring" things we learned in English class - fun. There were numerous times while reading "Words Fail Me", that my husband rolled his eyes and asked, "Okay, why are you laughing now?" I couldn't help it.

Whether she's discussing the lack of informed semi-colon users, or the importance of manuscript revision, O'Conner has a strong grasp on what separates good writers from truly great ones. I am well aware that I fall on the lower
Aug 11, 2014 A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I don't even write and I love it. Great advice for any writer from high school student to authors!
Edward Burton
Feb 20, 2016 Edward Burton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written, insightful, and informational book on a rather droll subject: writing.
Chris Proutt
Jun 12, 2014 Chris Proutt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned more about writing in the past week with this book than all my years of school
Hera Diani
Sep 15, 2007 Hera Diani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I read this book in the first days, or at least the first weeks of being a reporter. Maybe I would've been less at lost and stupid hehe.

This book has a lot of of great and simple writing tips, like how to deal with facts, numbers, structures, and so on. It's witty too. I still remember what she said about how, as a writer, we can't, and perhaps shouldn't, please everyone. She said we should just focus on one reader, because "if you open your window too wide, you'll get pneumonia."
Nov 17, 2009 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent tips, particularly for those writing brief works, but there are editing tips that apply to virtually anything. I love the laundry list at the end that puts you to work on all the principles she discusses.

I tried to go at this nibbling at a chapter here and there, and I suppose the book works in that sense, but I found I wanted to go through the whole thing. She's witty and entertaining, even if you already are familiar with the principles and tips she presents here.
This is a great book for anyone that wants to develop their writing skills - whether creatively, or for work, or just to become a better writer. The author offers so many great tips with examples on how to improve your writing, as well as how to think about things different as you are writing something. It's especially great for the editing process.

I now analyze other people's writing, it's amazing how many 'mistakes' you can find when you look.
Lynne Favreau
Mar 16, 2012 Lynne Favreau rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
A great book for beginner writers needing to get down the basics. O’Conner talks the writer through the preparatory stages of the process, the fundamentals needed for basic communication, and offers tips and trick’s to make the process easier. I always need a refresher in grammar when I start a new writing project. This book is humorous, fun and educational even for more experienced writers.
Debra Daniels-zeller
This book is filled with great tips and examples about writing. My favorites were the sections about comedy and emotions. Patricia O'conner has written an extremely useful book, one that I'll turn to again and again.
Feb 07, 2013 Demi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Covers some very important basics in the game of "how to write the way editors want you to." I come back to books like this every now and then for the reminders. Especially enjoyed the chapter on making your numbers add up--every time I chastise an author for precision in language, I forget to check behind the numbers. See? Something for everyone in this little book.
Jessica Zu
Aug 04, 2011 Jessica Zu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: howtowrite
It's a pleasant read. But I find myself skimming it all the time. Maybe that's because I'm used to read academic books with condensed information. This is not to say it's loosely structured. Reading academic books feels like running, while reading this book feels like strolling along a coast.
Aug 21, 2012 Francine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came in handey become i'm writig my first novel and it helped me alot to under stand how to use the words that i needed. I suggest that any ony that is writing a novel read this it will inspire you to great challeges.
Joshua Blair
Some basic writing tips are hidden among fluffy filler paragraphs that often try to be funny and fail miserably.
Pierced Librarian
It is ridiculous how much I love reading grammar books, and I still can't get the apostrophe rules figured out:)
Words fail Me is one of my favorite "How not to make an ass out of yourself while writing" books.
Jan 22, 2014 Steph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book- O'Conner is entertaining and her advice makes sense. I highly recommend this to any aspiring writers. This book is humorous and educational, but not in the dull, old-fashioned sense of the word. :)
Dec 02, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, writing
Witty, helpful, and not just for writers of books.

Recommended for: bloggers, magazine writers, authors, and folks who just like writing and reading about writing.
Sara Lane
Sep 06, 2012 Sara Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Call me a geek, but I really liked reading this book. I think it improved my writing skills tremendously!!!!!!!!!
Oct 21, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A quick read on how to write well. The book offers good reminders on the different ways we fail to write effectively.
Nov 19, 2011 Marcela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A helpful resource for improving your writing.It is quick and to the point and certainly not dry.
Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing by Patricia T. O'Conner (2000)
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“Whenever there's something wrong with your writing, suspect that there's something wrong with your thinking.” 11 likes
“First, you need something to organize: ideas, material, scraps of expertise, recipes, prognostications, anecdotes, scurrilous gossip, anything that might be relevant to what you want to write. And you get this stuff by hoarding it, by faithfully making notes and squirreling them away.” 0 likes
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