I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this book, and I only wish I had read it before starting college – it would have made things go much more smoothly, I’m sure!
Part 1: A Dozen Guidelines to Good Writing
I learned so much from just the first twelve chapters that I stopped reading for a while and started going through my blog posts to see where I could make them more readable and concise. My favorite passage in this section comes from chapter 2, which is entitled “Avoid Pretensions, Gobbledygook, and Euphemisms.”
"The fact is that there isn’t anything very intelligent about pretentious and abstract writing. To the contrary, one hallmark of intellect is the ability to simplify, to make the complex easy to understand. Anyone can be unclear."
Part 2: Storytelling
The middle chapters in this book concern themselves with the deeper issues of what makes up a compelling story. LaRocque gives clear, helpful explanations of archetypes and major story types, as well as discussing how to create word pictures using a variety of tools, including metaphors, similes and irony.
I was especially interested in her advice on writing versus editing, since I often fall into the trap of jumping into a blog post without much planning and then editing as I go instead of getting everything out on paper first. How much easier would it be following this advice:
"Before laying hand to keyboard, you write a sentence that captures the essence of the whole piece of section or chapter….Then you make a brief, informal outline that includes beginning, middle, and end….
Sit down and write like mad, allowing no distraction, answering no phone, checking no fact…. Stifle the impulse to edit as you write. You’ll lose momentum if you do."
She also recommends reading your work aloud when you are ready to edit, as this makes it easier to find the bumpy parts that need a bit of polishing.
Part 3: Language and Writing Mechanics
As someone who has always enjoyed the details of grammar and punctuation, I had a lot of fun reading these last few chapters of the book. And I even learned a number of things that I either didn’t know or had wondered about.
I greatly appreciate LaRocque dispelling some common myths, specifically those about not splitting an infinitive or a verb phrase and not ending a sentence with a preposition. She also answered some questions I had about the use of the serial comma, which has been quite helpful already!
Whether you write for publication or for pleasure, I would highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to improve their writing style.