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The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase

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4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  2,473 Ratings  ·  394 Reviews
The idiosyncratic, erudite and brilliantly funny new book from Mark Forsyth, bestselling author of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon.

In an age unhealthily obsessed with substance, this is a book on the importance of pure style.

From classic poetry to pop lyrics and from the King James Bible to advertising slogans, Mark Forsyth explains the secrets that make a phrase - su
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Hardcover, 205 pages
Published November 7th 2013 by Icon Books
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Trevor
Feb 07, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language, reference
Witty, clever, fascinating, compulsive, delightful. That first sentence is an example of Scesis Onomaton and merely five of the words I use to describe myself – well, and this book too, obviously. To be honest, I’m not going to remember the names of all of the rules that are discussed here.

You could, if the mood took you, do exactly that and learn all of the Greek names for the rhetorical tricks discussed here, but I don’t think that is completely necessary. What this very short book does beaut
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Roy Lotz
Nov 02, 2014 Roy Lotz rated it really liked it
Shelves: prose-style
I don’t have all that much to say about this book (not counting the whole lot of nonsense I append to the end of this review). It’s a short read—charming, light. It promises the key to eloquence, but is probably better for a quick laugh. Nevertheless, I’ve been looking for a book to summarize some of the old techniques for turning a phrase, and Forsyth does an admirable job of it. So the ratio of payoff to pleasure is actually quite high.

(view spoiler)
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Caroline
Feb 08, 2015 Caroline rated it did not like it
Recommended to Caroline by: Trevor McCandless
Shelves: miscellaneous
This is one of those highly lauded books (with an average GR rating of 4.32 stars no less), which lay in my lap like a flabby hippo.

It was not my thing.

I read non-fiction. I like to LEARN. But this collection of rhetorical terms swept over me like high tide in the Bay of Fundy. Nothing stayed put, or nothing that I did not already know. Merism, polyptoton, aposiopesis, diacope, hendiadys, epizeuxis? My brain registered their meanings for the minute or so that I read the relevant pages - and the
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Emma Sea
4.5, rounded up for the binding.

Informative and hilarious. Laughed out loud in public through many pages. Got asked by a creepy stranger what book was I reading, and got to say, "A primer on the classical forms of rhetoric." Stranger did not bother me again. Booyah!
Shira Glassman
Jun 06, 2017 Shira Glassman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I am so in love with Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth that only a few chapters in, I added it to my paperback wishlist. You have to understand--me owning treeware means I know that I'll want to read and reread it several times. Otherwise, I check it out from the library so it doesn't take up space in my house and other people can enjoy it (or occasionally buy eBooks.)

I had no idea there were this many rhetorical tricks, just waiting to be appreciated in other people's writing, or waiting to
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Paul
Oct 02, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2016
Have you always wanted to write like Shakespeare? Or is reaching literary immortality your thing? If you have nothing of any note to say, but still want to have maximum effect in your prose then you need to learn the finer arts of rhetoric. In this expose of the one liner, Mark Forsythe details the way to write that will give you much more style than you thought possible. Its origins are Greek, who formulated the concepts; these were built on by the Romans, before the baton was handed to the Eng ...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
When you giggle uncontrollably while reading an introduction to the classical forms of rhetoric, generously sprinkled with the best quotes from Shakespeare, Churchill, Wilde and many other more or less known heroes of the good turn of phrase, then you known you've got the right book for you. Besides his witty and hilarious way of presenting his material, the author manages to illuminate why we are often deeply affected rather by the phrasing of an idea, than by its essence (Churchill's We Shall ...more
Lucinda
Nov 17, 2015 Lucinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Who needs sense when you have alliteration?”

“So Shakespeare stole; but he did wonderful things with his plunder. He’s like somebody who nicks your old socks and then darns them.”

’there’s absolutely no point in historians getting indignant about language. It's never going to stop changing – they're trying to hold back the tide…’

The sheer witticism and timeless truism within Mark Forsyth’s writing, fashions a unique reading experience for a diverse readership. His edgy, original style cleverl
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K.J. Charles
Very informative and extremely funny at points. It's basically an explanation of various rhetorical devices we all use in some ways, which used to be formalised and taught but no longer. Picked up a lot of interesting nuggets, and it's a very good way to make you consciously aware of what you're doing in writing and how effects are achieved.
Amy Neftzger
Jan 09, 2014 Amy Neftzger rated it it was amazing
As a writer, I’m interested in the technical information in the book - how some of the best authors in history utilized these building blocks called the figures of rhetoric in their craft. He doesn’t explain every figure in existence — just some of the ones more commonly used. What’s great about this book is how the author provides specific examples from classic literature.

Aside from the fascinating content, what makes this book unique is the engaging manner in which it’s written. Forsyth makes
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Olga Godim
Mar 10, 2016 Olga Godim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Marvelous! For a writer like me, without a formal writing education and largely self-taught, this book is a must. It talks about the rules of rhetoric – the rules for creating a memorable phrase. A writer must follow those rules, those rigid formulas, if she wants her writing to sound good, to invoke emotions, to inspire convictions. Those rules are called figures of rhetoric.
Forsyth explains the rules in simple words, not once resorting to the incomprehensible linguistic vernacular. Well, excep
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James Hartley
Jan 12, 2017 James Hartley rated it really liked it
This a pithy, witty little book which benefits and suffers from its constricting format. While it sets itself up as a guidebook to "how to turn the perfect English phrase" its really an explanation of the different classical terms used in rhetoric. Some names, like hyperbole, are familiar, while most are not.
Forsythes strength is his sense of clarity in explaining and demonstrating use of the terms and also his sense of humour, which is lively and genuinely funny. The book suffers, though, from
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Brian Clegg
Nov 25, 2013 Brian Clegg rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed Mark Forsyth's fluffy but inspiring earlier books on words, notably The Etymologicon, and his new title The Elements of Eloquence is equally enjoyable (and anything but a hard read). But it is also a book that makes you stop in your tracks. Because this stuff really matters.

Forsyth has revealed a startling truth that should have been obvious - in all those hours spent in English lessons we aren't taught how to write well. Yet there is a way to do this that has been around sin
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Ellie
Nov 10, 2013 Ellie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Elements of Eloquence; its very title an example of the first chapter’s rhetoric, alliteration. This charming little book from the man who brought you The Etymologicon and The Horologicon reveals the secrets of all great poets (and songwriters) with tongue firmly in cheek. Whilst we all learned about alliteration at school, the rest of rhetoric has been thrown out with the bathwater.

Before the Romantics came along, the figures of rhetoric were studied extensively and used by the likes of Sha
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Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
Feb 10, 2014 Catriona (LittleBookOwl) rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
THE SHORT
The Elements of Eloquence is a cleverly crafted book about the English language, that both amuses and enlightens. Forsyth's writing is witty and humorous, and I loved that he often implemented the language techniques he was describing and discussing. In addition to these aspects, creating such fluidity between the chapters makes this a really interesting read that many readers and writers could appreciate and learn from.


THE LONG
Video Review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jfBF...
Richard Newton
Jul 07, 2017 Richard Newton rated it really liked it
Entertaining and informative. I doubt you will come away from this book fully understanding rhetoric, but it will make you much more aware of it - at least it has for me - and that is a good place to start.

If you don't write or want to make impressive speeches this may be if marginal interest, but many will find the authors writing style amusing, if occasionally a little smug.
Laura Leaney
Feb 08, 2015 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing
This is a charming book. Each chapter spins a little narrative regarding the power of rhetorical devices that now seem to be the province of "stern and serious scholars." The underlying argument is, of course, that beautiful language is within everyone's grasp. I learned quite a few things by reading Forsyth's book and not just antique methods of expressing myself. In the chapter on synecdoche, the author discusses the lovely sexiness of describing the whole of something by its parts. Lips, hand ...more
Rick Skwiot
Dec 01, 2014 Rick Skwiot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This sentence describing a dismal dinner is, says Mark Forsyth, “perhaps the greatest anadiplosis” ever written:

“If the soup had been as warm as the wine, and the wine as old as the fish, and the fish as young as the maid, and the maid as willing as the hostess, it would have been a very good meal.”

The anadiplosis, a figure of speech where the last word in a phrase or sentence becomes the first word in the next, is but one of 39 such rhetorical devices that Forsyth, who blogs as The Inky Fool, w
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Patrick
Feb 10, 2017 Patrick rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone who wants to make their writing better! Just grab a pen and a paper before starting because the names are Greek and you'll get confused after reading a couple of them. The author's style of writing and his dry humor makes the reading all the more enjoyable. And the repeated use of the element discussed makes it easier to remember. I'll definitely dive into this one again to soak up as much as I can.
Alexandra
4/27/15 Audible Daily Deal $2.95.
Chin Joo
Apr 15, 2015 Chin Joo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-writing
I had not intended to review this book, but towards the end of the book the author wrote something that struck a cord with me and so I thought I wanted to say my piece.

First of all, I must confess that I do not know that there are so many elements in the English language, especially their funny names (e.g., Hendiadys, Chiasmus, Adynaton, etc.) I had enough trouble with nouns, verbs, adjectives already. Nevertheless, not knowing that they exist (or their names) does not mean that I did not use th
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Victor Sonkin
Mark Forsyth is one of those rare fortunates, a blogger-turned-real-author. I haven't read his previous books, Etymologicon and Horologicon (plan to), but The Elements of Eloquence is a marvelous little book. It takes a simple idea of illustrating various rhetorical figures, and chugs along, (almost) never deviating from its aim.
The shortcomings of this book are not of the kind that could be corrected with some good will applied; they are errors of design, not of execution. The most obvious one,
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Eleanor St Clair
Jan 17, 2015 Eleanor St Clair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody interested in the English language
Shelves: owned
I adored this book! I read it in one sitting in a coffee shop, where my bouts of laughter attracted some rather scathing glances. (How dare I enjoy a book so much that I laugh out loud!)
It does exactly what it says on the cover, instructs one on how to "Turn the Perfect English Phrase," and so, so much more.
I want to tell everyone I know to read it, but, I sort of don't at the same time because I want to keep all of the amazing knowledge stored within its rather beautiful cover to myself. Is tha
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Margaret
Nov 10, 2016 Margaret rated it really liked it
What to say about this brilliant book?

"The Elements of Eloquence" looks at the figures of rhetoric that make up part of English grammar.

Mark Forsyth provides examples ranging from Shakespeare to the Beatles and back again.

He analyzes some of Shakespeare's greatest lines, explaining why they work and why they are so memorable.

I made several interesting discoveries. Firstly, that it is possible to sing Lewis Carrol's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun".

The
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Igor
Jan 18, 2016 Igor rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Writers
One of the most enjoyable reads in a while. It's funny, full of insight on linguistic style. Forsyth manages to inform and entertain at the same time. For a dry subject this book is light speed page turner.
Jan Priddy
Sep 20, 2016 Jan Priddy rated it it was ok
I find I like it less and less the more I think about it. I will likely keep this book on my shelves because I tend to hoard books on writing, but I am not sure I can recommend it. Frequently, dear readers, Forsyth is wrong.

Forsyth borrows from others' research and then overstates with satire and sarcasm and perhaps people mistake that for wit, originality, and genuine scholarship. The Introduction is entertaining and very funny and I suspect that is all most reviewers have read. Forsyth contin
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Margarita
Oct 13, 2015 Margarita rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Well-deserved stars.

This book was an eye opener, for those of us that do not naturally discern speech patterns, like pentameters and other techniques with fancy names such as antithesis, polyptoton, hyperbaton, merism, etc. The definitions did go completely over my head, but the examples, ranging from Bible extracts, to modern movies, to political speeches, were very memorable.

Rhetoric is about making a single phrase striking and memorable. It is about persuasion.

A few of examples
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Cindy Rollins
May 09, 2015 Cindy Rollins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, audiobooks
Mark Forsyth chooses delight and wit to introduce us to many familiar and unfamiliar English figures of speech. I found the book to be inspiring because I do enjoy playing with words....but then again...who has the time. Maybe that is what the Elizabethans had that we don't.

I bought this as an Audible daily deal. I am sure it will be something I listen to again and again but I won't be handing it to any of my children. It is a bit too racy for that. The F-word does make an appearance here and th
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Caleb
Apr 07, 2014 Caleb rated it it was amazing
I feel like a review of this book ought to be eloquent! If you're a reader or especially a writer, this book is a joy: it's at once a guided tour of features of language you might not have noticed, a selection box of rhetorical delights, and a toolshed of devices to be put to good use.
Karen
Nov 09, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forsyth does a great job of making this topic fun. For word lovers, a delight.
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Is this apropriate for non-native English speakers? 8 35 Oct 27, 2015 01:49PM  
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Mark Forsyth is a writer, journalist and blogger. Every job he’s ever had, whether as a ghost-writer or proof-reader or copy-writer, has been to do with words. He started The Inky Fool blog in 2009 and now writes a post almost every day. The blog has received worldwide attention and enjoys an average of 4,000 hits per week.

Mr. Forsyth currently resides in London.
More about Mark Forsyth...

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“John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote his first story aged seven. It was about a “green great dragon.” He showed it to his mother who told him that you absolutely couldn’t have a green great dragon, and that it had to be a great green one instead. Tolkien was so disheartened that he never wrote another story for years.
The reason for Tolkien’s mistake, since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.”
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“So Shakespeare stole; but he did wonderful things with his plunder. He’s like somebody who nicks your old socks and then darns them.” 6 likes
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