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Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,345 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews

Engaging and direct, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace is the guidebook for anyone who wants to write well.

Key Benefit

Engaging guidebook for anyone who wants to write well.

Key Topics

Style, Clarity, Grace, Form, Ethics Guidelines for writing.

Market:

General Interest: Improving writing

Paperback, Eighth Edition, 274 pages
Published December 23rd 2004 by Longman (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Terence
Mar 16, 2009 Terence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English teachers, writers & editors
Shelves: reference-works
This is a brilliant little guide to improving your writing that I wish I had known about when I was an English teacher.

Williams begins with the basics and builds up to chapters on style and usage. The underlying themes throughout are two: Good writing is not limited to professional authors - anyone can do it with sufficient practice and a decent amount of concern about what you write; and the rules of grammar and syntax are guides to clear communication. Writers can "bend" and even break them in
...more
Cathy Douglas
May 24, 2009 Cathy Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference-books
This is my favorite left-brained writing book. It's taking me forever to read it, but that's okay, and when I finish, I might just go back and read it again. I like it that Williams gets me to think about sentences. I naturally write like a runner, as if getting to the finish line first were the only measure of success. I'm too damn old to run like a runner any more, no why not plug on with paragraphs and pages as if they were timed laps on the track? But of course that isn't the way writing wor ...more
Vanessa
Nov 19, 2008 Vanessa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
Not too bad for an English textbook. My favorite parts are when Williams makes the very mistakes he chastises other writers for doing.
Juliana
This book changed the way I think about sentence structure, and I'm the type of girl who thinks about sentence structure all the time.
Patrick Garrett
A Rather Expensive Guide with Little Unique Content

Though well written--a prerequisite for a style book--I wasn't blown away by this guide's content. A required text for a rhetorical studies seminar at UC, Riverside, we compared this book with Virginia Tufte's Artful Sentences to glean practical value from a spectrum of books that have the intention of distilling style into a couple hundred pages. The approach in this text comes in response to, and in some ways falls short of, the seminal Elemen
...more
Denis
I fell in love with the way that Williams debunked the invented rules that grammarians use to bludgeon writers and rant about the death of the English language. I don't agree with everything he said, but his book is the first style manual I've ever read that I would have no qualms about suggesting to others.
Omar Halabieh
Mar 26, 2016 Omar Halabieh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently finished reading Style - The Basics of Clarity and Grace - by Joseph M. Williams.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

When we don't know what we're talking about (or have no confidence in what we do know) we typically write long sentences choked with abstract words.

I suspect that those who choose to observe all the rules all the time do so not because they think they are protecting the integrity of the language or the quality of our culture, but
...more
Joe S
Apr 02, 2008 Joe S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the tens of people out there who actually have to teach reading and writing, I've decided to start reviewing the heap of atrocious textbooks I've had to slog through while building my syllabi.

This book is brilliant. I feel like a better writer for having read it. I wish it had been required when I was taking first-year comp. It fucks the old-school conservativism of Strunk-n-White right in the ear. Williams sidesteps the paralyzing imperatives for pre- and mid-writing processes and skips rig
...more
Jo Deurbrouck
Yum, grammar porn! I could watch Williams parse beautiful, grammatically sophisticated sentences all day long. I also appreciate his easy refreshers for concepts like 'nominalization,' 'summative clause,' and the difference between coherence and cohesion. These things only stay fresh in my mind if I take myself back to school now and then. Some reviewers have dinged the man for being a less-than-graceful writer from time to time. This doesn't detract from the book's value for me. What would, I t ...more
Marc Perry
Jun 15, 2011 Marc Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read only one book to improve how you write, edit, and read English prose, then in my opinion, it should be this book by Joseph Williams. This is not a book for the uninitiated. Rather, this is a book for experienced writers who are unhappy with how they write, and are flailing around looking for some way to improve their writing. It is all in here; the history of how the English language assimilated multiple words, with different origins, that have similar or identical meanings; how obtu ...more
Ian Yang
Sep 16, 2011 Ian Yang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
Don't know how I actually bumped into this great book, I guess I was just fortunate when I fortuitously picked the right book that accidentally mentioned it. I wonder why I was never introduced to it when attending university 'cause it not only clarifies plenty of practical and fundamental knowledge about writing in English (or rewriting, quoting the author) but helps a great deal when you want to rephrase a more complex sentence and make it less impersonal and obscure, especially when the mate ...more
Laura
There were a lot of relevant writing issues in this book and I felt like it did a good job of explaining the different concepts to make writing sound better and clearer. Every chapter featured a different aspect of writing that could be improved. I knew that I did a lot of things this book said were common mistakes and it was nice to see how clunky and cluttered it made writing and how I could fix it. This book helped my writing and offered tips and ways to change my writing to make it more grac ...more
Vera
Apr 14, 2013 Vera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: advanced undergrads, grad students, scholars who can't master coherent writing
Shelves: writing
I'm so happy I met this book.

In contrast to many writing guides, it does not offer any pedestrian advice on common mistakes such as its/it's or affect/effect, it does not overuse jargon, and it does not digress from its purpose. It provides clear, step-by-step instructions for writing tighter sentences and more coherent paragraphs.

A lot of stuff I read in grad school is so dense and cluttered that it is barely comprehensible, so I'm glad that there is a book on how to write sentences that are
...more
Beth
Feb 10, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writing teachers
Recommended to Beth by: required reading for a class
I had to read this book for a writing class I took called, "Writing, Technology, and Style." Despite some places where I felt where Williams went into too much detail, I thoroughly enjoyed his chapter on usage because it was just another tally mark of books that I've read that talk about how teaching nothing but grammar to students actually makes them worse writers. Again, there were quite a few chapters in this book that I glossed over because some of the things Williams was saying were too com ...more
Emily
Sep 16, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives great examples of clear, concise writing along with examples of less clear, less concise writing. Provides grammatical & syntactic explanations for why certain sentences are clearer or less clear. These examples and practice exercises help me to think about the phrasing and pacing of my sentences as I write.
Kristin Canfield
I read this book one lesson at a time over several months and I found it incredibly useful for improving my writing in a practical sense. So many books on style give prescriptions for what good writing looks like without telling you how to get there. I'll return to these exercises when revising my work in the future.
Eleanor
Jun 11, 2011 Eleanor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly elegant manual on writing mostly for research purposes. Each chapter is preceded by quotes that illustrate the point of the following section beautifully, poetically. The writing is so clear and direct yet friendly and inviting, I'd love to write half as well as the author of this manual.
Linda
Oct 14, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best "how to" book I've ever read. Williams breaks the writing process into 10 key elements that ensure that the message is correct and will be read. He provides many examples and goes through the process of editing samples from good to really great. Chapter 9, Elegance, is absolutely amazing. I need to reread this book!
Katie
Dec 08, 2013 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very, very clear, well written, and it explains the dilemmas and controversies of style. It is designed to empower the reader to make their own decisions about rules and choose a style, rather than suggesting a "best" style and how to follow it.
Anne
Mar 28, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever thought of your sentences as stories? Do you want to see someone take a stab at defining "elegance" in writing? Check out Williams. I tutor in a writing center and we read this book as part of our tutoring preparation. A practical step above Strunk & White, in my opinion.
Public Words
Dec 20, 2007 Public Words rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to learn how to write well, with elegance and power, this is the only book after Strunk and White that will tell you how. Williams has figured out some aspects of writing no one else has.
Isaac
Oct 21, 2013 Isaac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The best book on grammar and syntax I've read.
Makes Strunk and White's Elements of Style seem way too spartan in comparison.

I wish I'd read this before I finished my degree.

:(
Amber
Mar 14, 2008 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is eye-opening for writing non-fiction. You cannot read it without suddenly seeing how you could become a better writer.
Graeme Roberts
The information in the book is excellent. As a writer, I might use it for occasional reference, but trying to read it was painful and unrewarding.
Robert
Dec 17, 2010 Robert is currently reading it
Shelves: writing, academics
A landmark book that provides, sound, non-pedantic advice on writing cleanly and elegantly. It's the English Composition course I never took!
Alex
Jan 06, 2009 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joe Williams knows what he is talking about. His rhetorical analysis toward the end of the book was extremely interesting and gave me new insights into how historical figures write.
Stephen
Feb 15, 2009 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who writes anything should spend some time reading this book and doing the exercises it contains. I revisit it often and am never disappointed with what I learn.
Natalia
Jun 10, 2015 Natalia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You better read this here book if you wanna write real good like
Ksenia Anske
Dec 01, 2016 Ksenia Anske rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A book to buy to have in your reference library, along with The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. Though you'll find it mostly discussing non-fiction examples, the lessons are the same. You can apply them to any writing, fiction included. And you'll chuckle, too, recognizing your own ineptnesses described so eloquently here, and with such fine humor (especially when you get to the last chapter that includes a brief history of good English and the separation of real grammatical r ...more
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