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How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them
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How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  352 ratings  ·  83 reviews
Ben Yagoda's How to Not Write Bad illustrates how we can all write better, more clearly, and for a wider readership.

He offers advice on what he calls "not-writing-badly," which consists of the ability, first, to craft sentences that are correct in terms of spelling, diction (word choice), punctuation, and grammar, and that also display clarity, precision, and grace. Then h
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Riverhead Books
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  352 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoy Ben Yagoda's columns in the New York Times now and then. He's one of the few people who can write an essay about commas and make me laugh. When I was offered a review copy of his newest book, I couldn't say no. I own and have read plenty of books that promise to tell me how to write well. I even own that perennial classic by William Zinsser. But I have never read a book that offered to teach me how to not write bad.

There is a difference, isn't there, between writing well and not writing
Thomas Edmund
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-on-writing
While perhaps more focused on journalism than fiction, Yagoda still provides a useful technical guide to writing. Personally I struggled with the examples (I find it hard to read a 'bad' sentence, I suspect I just take anything written as correct as long as I can make sense of it) but I enjoyed all the lessons.

The third section in my opinion is the strongest, Yagoda provides the most compelling argument for the use and avoidance of cliches I've read.
David Stephens
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Journalism professor Ben Yagoda attempts here what so many others have already tried: to present a short, enjoyable, and informative book on grammar and basic writing. The idea is not necessarily to make readers fantastic or even good writers but to make them not-bad, to allow them to rise above the current bulk of needlessly excessive writing and guard themselves against grammar they may not know or understand. And to a large extent, he succeeds.

There are more conservative writers who would hav
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
An easy to read refresher on the basic rules - with examples that both entertain and educate. As a former student of the author, I was relieved to not find any of my own work used as "how not to" illustrations.
Sidik Fofana
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
SIX WORD REVIEW: We could always use a brush-up.
Zach Goldman
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
First off, I'm not a journalist or an English professor. I'm just a guy who wants to improve my writing. Ben Yagoda's "How to Not Write Bad" seeks to help people do just that, being a short guide that covers the key points on how to write well. If this sounds dull, it's not; the author throws in hilarious writing samples from his students, and other examples of bad writing that make this book an educational but funny read (perhaps until the reader realizes he or she is guilty of some of these co ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Good engineering is about preventing failure as much as achieving success, so this book's title attracted me irresistibly. In addition, my writing skills are quite good for an engineer, so I wanted to see what Ben Yagoda had to say about writing. I did not expect what I found.

Yagoda has two sections to his book, one about grammar rules and one about word choice and style. In both, he presents common mistakes and describes how to avoid and fix them. I was surprised by the range of my reactions to
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
After abandoning a dry textbook on writing style, it was refreshing to find a book that's concise, pragmatic, and approachable. Culled from actual student submissions, "bad" examples are rewritten to be "not-bad". This problem-solving approach makes the content easily applicable to everyday situations.
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, journalism
It takes a certain type of geek to read this sort of book cover-to-cover. I am that sort of geek. Yagoda has a fresh approach to classic grammar and syntax rules and if the first part of this sentence bored you, then I don't recommend this book. If you are a fan of Zinsser and Strunk/White but want to update and revamp your skills, pick this up. I plan to add it to my personal writing library.
Will Mego
This is an excellent book, which I intend to read again in the near future. I did often find myself wanting to rewrite many of the corrected sentences, as the author tends to solve the problem by changing the person of the sentence or paragraph. But I would highly recommend this thought-provoking book, and look forward to reading his other work.
David Quinn
3 stars and a not-sure-I'd-recommend if you're planning to read HtNWB for pleasure.

4 stars and recommended as a reference book.

HtNWB may have diminished my already mediocre writing ability. I find myself overthinking each word and sentence and proceeding with excessive caution. Now it's taking me longer to generate the same insipid content.

Yagoda's book has lots of practical tips and a healthy supply of good humor, but the rules of grammar and the technical grammatical terms I forgot long ago ca
Kaylee Tanner
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was not impressed. Yagoda's prose is annoying-he tries too hard to be "cool" (Not using quotes around a cliche is the first of many of his ridiculous rules I will gleefully continue to break in my writing) and constantly self-aggrandizes through fake self-deprecation. He presents the simplest grammar rules and then seems to think that us plebes are incapable of becoming "not bad" writers without his rare and priceless bits of grammar knowledge, most of which literally any 8th grader should kno ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching, writing
A useful sort-of-handbook. (Sort-of, in a good sense, because it is written not as a series of rules so much as a book of advice on writing.) The specific advice that Yagoda offers is solid, and timely, but more than thos bits of advice what I value most is his urging that writers become more "mindful" in the ways they revise and edit their prose.
Apr 14, 2017 added it
Finally, a book that makes grammar and English fun! Examples of bad writing are mocked and then edited, transforming misleading or awkward sentences into "not-bad writing." Clear explanations and concise rules are easy to follow, and the book's three-part structure allows it to be a quick reference guide for writers.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Extremely informative for those who are familiar with basic grammar but need help in avoiding common mistakes. Bonus: it's also very funny.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ben Yagoda's books on writing are terrific. If you want to improve your writing or your read and comprehend good writing, digging through BY's books are a terrific start.
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Solid and accessible; nothing groundbreaking, but better than most traditional guides. Yagoda comes across as being a fun professor to take a class with.
T.M. Carper
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, writing
I need to buy a copy as a reference for my editing phase. Quick and concise for the modern writer with a bit of humor thrown in.
Ilena Bickley
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Learned a lot about punctuation and grammar.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Since I was an English major on my first trip through college, I consider myself a fairly accomplished writer. I see so many writing errors in blogs, articles, and reviews on-line, and I was looking forward to determining whether Yagoda's slim volume could be a good resource. It is definitely full of solid advice on how to recognize and avoid typical writing errors.

The first section dedicates ~10 pages to the advice that reading, lots of reading, is the best training for writing well, and I coul
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Mr. Yagoda's How to Not Write Bad reads as a modern update to Strunk & White's classic The Elements of Style. The conversational tone, with liberal dashes of humor thrown in, feels like a friend offering writing advice - straightforward, common-sense advice on how to, well, not write badly. He includes easy guidelines for avoiding common grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes, but also provides some more general suggestions gleaned from his "twenty years of teaching advanced journalism ...more
W. Whalin
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a journalism professor at the University of Delaware, Ben Yagoda has years of experience of reading student assignments. That experience is sifted and poured into “How Not To Write Bad.” This entertaining look at language is informative and everyone who reads it will profit from this book.

As he writes in the introduction, “Words are the building blocks of sentences, and sentences are the building blocks of any piece of writing; consequently, I focus on these basics. As far as I’m concerned, n
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very useful overview

I really enjoyed the first two parts of the book. Being a non-native English speaker, I've found the brevity of most grammar / punctuation rules very practical; to the point of having some of them pinned at my desk. For the most part there were no lengthy explanations why one should or should not write this way or another, a simple "Don't do that" really does the trick. I also agree with Yagoda, that the best way to improve your writing is by reading a lot. Therefore short
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
After having read and loved another of his books ("When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It”), I picked up this one with high hopes. Unfortunately, though, this fell far short of those expectations. Whereas the other book was entertaining, humorous, and organized, this one was repetitive, dry, and disorganized. And not only repetition, with things appearing here from his previous book, but even repetition from one chapter to another—the same tips, gripes, and examples sometimes popping up more than ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Teachers at the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good ...
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
Hmmm, I dunno, it just came off like an English teacher complaining about the mistakes his students make all the time. In theory, I like the idea of a guide teaching how not to write bad, rather than how to write good. The problem is, students that make the kind of mistakes Yagoda is trying to correct with this book (like spelling pendulum "pengellum") are not the type of people that will actually read this book. He himself points out that many of these errors are the result of not having read e ...more
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
An excellent reincarnation of Strunk and White. Anyone who attempts to teach writing, in any subject, should assign this book. Like The Elements of Style, How to Not Write Bad begins with a general essay on the importance of clarity and brevity and then moves into more specific advice. Yagoda's examples of weak writing are perfectly chosen. Reading this will make you even more self-conscious of what you write, as I was when I began this review with a fragment. Yagoda's goal is not to inspire bud ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
First of all, I need to disclose I won this in a goodreads giveaway. I have been out of college for a while now and was glad to read this short volume on not writing bad. Yagoda does a good job of covering the basic rules of writing, both stylistically and grammatically. It was nothing I didn't know, but he covered it in a concise, snappy manner. I got a good laugh from a lot of his examples of what not to write.

My favorite piece of advice from Yagoda is that you learn to write by reading and m
Bob Anderson
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
This how-not-to-write guide has a pretty simple format: a humorous though uninformative title for a particular flaw, a slightly-more-informative-on-average description that should be deprived of its humor and made the title, an overly-affected example written by the authors, and finally an explanation that usually just makes the point which a more careful craftsman could have made in only the title and a short blurb, saving the rest of the page for a more enriching analysis than this book has ro ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
How to Not Write Bad is very concise and condense summary of writing. This is not a book to sit with one reading. It has to be read in increments to absorb the information.

The book gives other grammar book reference if the reader choose to research more about punctuations, grammar, and writing style. Another thing I like about the book is that it gives example of bad writing and the correction. The book doesn't hammered the readers with the rules. It offers the explanation of why the sentences
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I received this book free through a Goodreads giveaway. Just now got around to reading it since I have been deployed for the last 9 months.

A big part of my job is writing. I am always looking for ways to improve and this book is a good guide for some of the more common errors.

I enjoyed the style of writing. Some writing guides can be rather dry in content presentation. This book was kept it interesting.

I would definitely recommend this for anyone who writes for a living or is an aspiring writer.
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Ben Yagoda (born 22 February 1954 in New York City) is a professor of journalism at the University of Delaware.

Born to Louis Yagoda and the former Harriet Lewis, he grew up in New Rochelle, New York and entered Yale University to study English in 1971. He became a freelance journalist for publications such as The New Leader, The New York Times, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, and published a number o
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” 0 likes
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