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The Writer's Art

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  67 ratings  ·  14 reviews
"Writing comes in grades of quality in the fashion of beer and baseball games," says James J. Kilpatrick, "good, better, and best." With the experience of a lifetime of writing, he tells us, he wants to make a few judgment calls. And Jack Kilpatrick, master of the art, is as good as his word. In the tradition of Theodore Bernstein, Edwin Newman, and William Safire, James J ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published January 1st 1985 by Andrews McMeel Publishing (first published April 1984)
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Jeremy Purves
The most pleasantry and humor in a book discussing the art of constructing sentences that I have ever read.

No wait ...

The most pleasantry and humor of any book I've ever read that discussed the art of constructing sentences.


This book has more pleasantry and humor in discussing the art of constructing sentences than that of any book I have ever read.

Still not right ...

With humor, Kilpatrick makes discussing the art of constructing sentences more pleasant than any other style book I've read.

Peter Krol
Superb. I found the book engaging, witty, and useful as I attempt to learn this art. Most of the chapters were a delight to read, and they inspired me to reconsider how I write not only essays, but also reviews, emails, and thank-you notes.

The long chapter on Kilpatrick's "crotchets" read like a dictionary: informative and beneficial, but only in small doses.

"So let us love words, and let us treat them with tender loving care. Shades of meaning matter greatly; exactitude matters greatly. Empathy
♥ Ibrahim ♥

The book was printed in 1984, and so its style is in keeping with that time period. There are much easier to read books and more fun. I was put off by his condescending, sarcastic remarks as he made fun of lawyers who confused "it's" with "its", as if this is a surprise when it is a common spelling error here in the States. Compassion and humility are virtues, Mr. Kilpatrick!
I think it would be clear to anyone who reads this book that James Kilpatrick was a very talented writer and an excellent choice to write a book on "the writer's art." The great strength of this book is the whole of it offers quality writing to imitate, generous advice to consider, clear examples of mistakes to avoid and the remedies to apply.

The criticisms I have are owing to a disinterest I found growing as the book progressed. The early chapters kept my attention with the author's wit and he
I gave the author an extra star for name-checking Great-Uncle Douglas (his former boss at the Richmond News-Leader) a few times.

"Mr. Kilpatrick, If you start purple, end purple. DSF"
Dec 29, 2013 Jack rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
There are a couple of schools of grammar. Prescriptive grammarians believe in the preservation and imposition of rules. Descriptive grammarians describe the current state of the language. Kilpatrick is largely prescriptive. This book contains a lot of prescriptive rules for writing, grammar, and word usage. I would argue that this is a lot less about art and more about technique, mechanics, or craft. This is more about the tools and techniques, rather than the product. Perhaps that expresses my ...more
Jim Sundstrom
Not the gospel on writing, but pretty darn close. Nor would the late author describe it as such, although I don't believe humility was J. Kilpatrick's strong suit. The examples of both good and bad usage of language are fun to read. Never mind the notion that you might just learn something. Dated at times, although that is a lesson in and of itself, of the ever-changing English language, a lesson preached by the author himself. Overall, a valuable reference as well as an enjoyable read.
Craig Cecil
Most books designed to improve your writing are...dare we say?...boring. This one is a little better. Mr. Kilpatrick infuses enough humor, examples of bad writing, and personal anecdotes to make the task more palatable. Get the electronic version of the book, make your highlights of the most pertinent info, print them out, and you've got your own personalized writing checklist which you can refer to while creating your masterpiece.
Feb 07, 2008 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any writer
Kilpatrick is a seasoned writer with plenty of insight and tips for mastering the Writer's art. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. His mixture of wit, sacrasm and firm grasp of the English language makes this a rare page-turning writer's guide. I laughed out loud on several occasions.
Carlos Mueses
Great book on the art of writing. It serves as a great read and a reference guide.
Bill Lalonde
Kilpatrick is unabashedly prescriptivist, but that's part of what makes the book such fun reading. There's a lot of good advice, also a lot that I disagree with, but taken for what it is-- a collection of one author's advice and crotchets-- the book is quite enjoyable.
Armen Chakmakjian
This is the best book on writing I ever read. When he starts to go down the list of common "mistakes" people I crack up. If you are a writer of any sort, read it, form your own conclusions and style, but listen to what he was quite powerful.
Scott L.
An absolutely amazing book. I used to love reading Kilpatrick's columns; this book is an extension of those wonderful columns. I would recommend this book to anyone who writes, even if it is just for your own pleasure.
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