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Revising Prose

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  203 ratings  ·  34 reviews
As its title implies, this book deals with revising, not with original composition. Revising Prose enables students to work on their own at steady, detailed revision. Stressing the importance of the single sentence, The Paramedic Method of revision provides students with an easily learned method of revision to combat the obscurities of meaning that plague The Official Styl ...more
Paperback, Fourth Edition
Published July 19th 1999 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Emily Carlin
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Come for the concrete methods to improve your writing, stay for the exploration of prose style & the self.

“Writing, properly pursued, does not make you better. It makes you more alive.”
C.G. Fewston
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant and simple. At times it is extremely repetitive, but for a very strong reason. By thirty pages the reader begins to see the purpose of clear writing and the ambiguity and silliness of the Official Style. The Lard Factor is something I will use in my writing classes and workshops. Much advice also prevails throughout, as in the last chapter: "When we object to the prose, we are actually objecting to the habit of thought, the bureaucratic habits of thought and way of life. It is because, ...more
Nov 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I'm teaching a writing workshop at a tiny high school and am surprised at how much of the students' work is in 'Offical Style'(Lanham's term): passive, laden with needless words and thin on ideas. This book is offers ways to combat such writing. ...more
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference-works
This volume plus my 11th grade/College Comp teacher pretty much taught me all I know about writing well.

Any edition is highly recommended.
Ryan Patrick
Aug 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
This is a short book, and yet it could be even shorter. The author mostly spends his time, the last half of the book, trying to convince us to abandon, or revise away, what he calls the Official Style - that nouny, full-of-prepositional-phrases style used by bureaucrats and academics which ultimately hides or makes it difficult to understand what the author really wants to say. He's spot on, of course, and his instruction in the first half of the book should be followed as part of any revision p ...more
Christian Jespersen
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Writing is tough, reading can be tougher. Especially if it is official prose, defined by by being too long, and too hard to understand.
Revising Prose elegantly describes the importance of writong in a human voice.

Back in grammar classes at uni, this book would have been a blessing to have had, rather than the books we had.

If you do any writing in you life, do yourself a favor and read this book.
Lucas Davis
Apr 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Lanham presents a clear and easy to follow guide on revising any writing. There are some drawbacks, however. He focuses on using the impersonal 'you' in almost any sentence that needs a general agent, a practice that can get grating after some time. Lanham is able to present his method with minimal high-level grammatical concepts, and in only ~130 pages. If you need a crash-course introduction, this is a great choice. ...more
Diana Eidson
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is far and away one of the best books on writing you could ever hope to read. I find myself referring to it and recommending it frequently.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and useful ideas. Well worth the read-through for me.
Monia Yahiaoui
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very tedious at first if you have revised your own and others’ writing extensively already, but gets more useful and entertaining around 20% in.
Catherine Schenck-Yglesias
Pragmatic writing advice with excellent examples
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
The fifth edition of Richard Lanham’s Revising Prose (Pearson, 2007) is animated by a single purpose: to demonstrate how to diagnose and revise the “Official Style.” By Official Style, Lanham refers to the obtuse, jargon-laden prose that animates writing in the business world and the academy. Lanham believes the ubiquity of the Official Style is a product of imitation rather than laziness. Writers communicate ineffectively because they mimic the patterns other writers employ. But Lanham is out t ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been using Lanham's "Revising Prose" video (now available on DVD) in my university writing classes for years--it's a bit clunky, but entertaining and lucid. In a nutshell, it provides a concise, powerful method for evaluating and improving sentence clarity and structure, thereby remedying the "official style" (the convoluted and murky sentences typical of passive-voice constructions modified by strings of prepositional phrases). The book is essentially an extended and supplemented explanati ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Lanham's Revising Prose is short and to the point. His method is clear and logical, and it's easy to see what he's trying to help readers avoid. The Official Style, as he styles it, is the way textbooks, school reports, and far too many academic works are written. It is noun-centered, and uses many prepositional phrases and passive constructions to mask its meaning. His analysis in the final chapter of why the Official Style has arisen and why it is bad is particularly well written. He seems to ...more
Jonathan Ball
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Revising Prose is a handbook-cum-manifesto for clear yet carefully constructed prose, in opposition to 'Office Style' bureaucrat speak that has invaded academia. While Derrida and a handful of others have made a poetic virtue of a certain disorderly approach to prose, most such authors (including Derrida's imitators) are disastrous prose thinkers. I write 'thinker' rather than 'stylist' because Lanham argues for prose as an indication of one's thought, and indeed one of the effects of the 'Offic ...more
Mark Fullmer
When I was first introduced to Richard Lanham's ideas about prose early on in college, my own ideas about writing were pretty adolescent. And he was like a lightbulb. Returning to it now, in a 2007 fifth edition, I find some nice interesting comments about writing in the electronic age, but basically think Lanham's saying the same main (and good) point, whether he's talking about business prose, academic prose, electronic prose, or anything else. And those ideas aren't all that revelatory (use a ...more
Jon Mountjoy
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most gratifying results of reading this book by Richard Lanham as to how to write better is that I feel that I now can write well, with a better understanding of rhythm and .... only kidding ;-)

I enjoyed this little book about revising prose. As the title indicates, it's not about writing prose, but about revision. It's rule based, at the sentence level, has plenty of examples, pummels the hazy "official style" and will help you produce prose with clear actions and rollicking rhythms.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is there a fifth edition? WOW. It's still popular. It's kind of an old book: first edition published in 1979. But it's light reading; you can read within two hours. For me, it was very convinient since the public library has only one copy, and it was a reference book. However, this book provides a lot of excellent information for all kind of writers. ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite book on revision. Lanham pinpoints very common writing errors and provides easily understandable steps to fix them. I appreciate his many, many examples on how to implement his advice. His final chapter on the WHY of good writing is inspiring as much as the HOW described in the rest of the book. A concise powerhouse!
Jessica Carol
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic-life
This was great. Not only did Lanham present good information (needed information) and techniques, he did so in a very entertaining manner. He makes some excellent points about writing and the majority of his book is on revising the Offical Style, and writing in plain English that is clear and understandable.
Public Words
Dec 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
This too-often ignored book gives some surprisingly simple and straightforward ways to improve prose after it has been drafted. Anyone, even the ordinary non-writer, can benefit from reading this book and applying its insights to their own writing.
Public Words
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This too-often ignored book gives some surprisingly simple and straightforward ways to improve prose after it has been drafted. Anyone, even the ordinary non-writer, can benefit from reading this book and applying its insights to their own writing.
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, creative
This book shows you how to take the "blah blah blah" out of your sentences and write with impact. So many people use longwinded prose to sound smart, but we all know it's boring as hell to read. Writing is about communication, so be kind to your readers. ...more
Claire S
For when 'someday' arrives.. ...more
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
Mainly aimed at nonfiction and academic writing, but the lessons this book contains are useful for all writers.
S.W. Gordon
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I write to get my thoughts onto paper; I revise to get my paper published.
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy reading Lanham. Revising Prose instructs,inspires, and entertains--the perfect motivation to take his advice to heart in your own writing.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
A quick read and a handy refresher on editing for clarity.
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