Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase” as Want to Read:
The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  4,226 ratings  ·  624 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 -
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published November 7th 2013 by Icon Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,226 ratings  ·  624 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase
JV (semi-hiatus)
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Writers from all walks of life
A brilliant look at the art of rhetorics by employing rhetorical devices to further enhance and tighten one's literary belt, rhetorically speaking. Dramatic, bloody hilarious, and exquisitely witty, Forsyth fuses various elements of eloquence with erudition that empower writers from all walks of life.
"The figures of rhetoric are the beauties of all the poems we have ever read. Without them we would merely be us: eating, sleeping, manufacturing and dying. With them everything can be glorious.
Feb 07, 2015 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
Roy Lotz
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)
Feb 08, 2015 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
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!
TS Chan
Delightfully charming, witty and illuminating on a topic which could've been dry and droll. Mark Forsyth's own brand of eloquence made this book immensely enjoyable. I especially loved how his references ranged from the classics to even modern pop songs.

I'll be reaching for this, time and again.
Shira Glassman
Jun 06, 2017 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
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
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, humor, writing
An excellent reference on the elegant turn of a phrase.

Many of the tricks used by great writers and orators were first discovered and documented by ancient Greek rhetoricians. The author goes through a generous collection of them by name, giving examples and theories as to why they work.

Plus its funny.
Oct 02, 2016 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 ...more
Nov 17, 2015 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
Brian Clegg
Nov 25, 2013 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
Amy Neftzger
Jan 09, 2014 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
James Hartley
Jan 12, 2017 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
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.
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love how this often shows the boring way to write something next to the more memorable way. And the author uses a lot of the 'tricks'/'tools' in his exposition, just to show that you don't need to be Shakespeare or George Lucas to be able to write engagingly.

I'd like to be able to use this book in reverse. I'd like to be able to consider more carefully how authors work their magic in books that I consider well-written. I can see alliteration, because that's one of the elements of rhetoric we
Olga Godim
Mar 10, 2016 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,
Caz (littlebookowl)
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
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.

Video Review:
Nov 10, 2013 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
Lance Greenfield
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lance by: tony greenfield
My father bought me Mark Forsyth's valuable little book of thirty-nine rhetorical devices. I am sure that it has helped me with my writing style, even though I have not deliberately employed any of them.

It starts with a very familiar example: alliteration.

I adore alliteration, but it is possible to overdo it, and there is even a term for that appalling affliction.

The cleverest aspect of this book, in my humble opinion, is that each chapter flows naturally into the next. A chapter will typically
Richard Newton
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.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language
During the few days it took me to read this book the wonderful National Treasure Bruce Forsyth passed away. Now, one of his famous catch phrases was -
"Nice to see you, to see you nice"
Great example of anepanalepsis!
Which is, of course, a figure of speech defined by the repetition of the initial word (or words) of a clause or sentence at the end of that same clause or sentence.
And I only knew that because of this wonderful, funny, clever book.
Never thought I would laugh out loud reading about the
Sebastien Castell
A fun and engaging book about rhetorical figures. There's a sentence I never thought I'd type.

The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth takes the reader, one chapter at a time, through the individual techniques that deliver emotional power to language. Technically these are called rhetorical figures, and they include ones we're all familiar with, such as alliteration (the use of the same first letter or sound in multiple words in a sentence) to more obscure ones such as scesis onomaton (a
Laura Leaney
Feb 08, 2015 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, ...more
Rick Skwiot
Dec 01, 2014 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,
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Annise
A fun, quick read full of Greek terms for rhetorical techniques that we all periodically use without being consciously aware of it. Although I doubt I’ll remember many of the Greek terms themselves, the techniques themselves and the examples of their application are very compelling. To select a random example, I was struck by the revelation that vowels were probably pronounced differently in Shakespeare’s time. So we have lost some of his rhymes and gained new ones thanks to changing ...more
A Albeirakdar
Feb 10, 2017 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.
4/27/15 Audible Daily Deal $2.95.
Jan Priddy
Sep 20, 2016 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
Paul O'Neill
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book from the creator of the inky fool blog. If you like real word porn, like the seriously hard stuff, you should read him.

I didn’t expect to take so many notes that could, potentially, help with my writing. Mr Forsyth’s explanations of classic rhetoric are marvellously straight forward. Also, did I mention word porn?
- Aposiopesis
- Diacope
- Tricolon
- Hypotaxis and Parataxis (and Polysyndeton and Asyndeton)
- Zeugma
- Metonymy and Synecdoche
- and many more are explained and dissected.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Is this apropriate for non-native English speakers? 8 39 Oct 27, 2015 01:49PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Everest 1953: The Epic Story of the First Ascent
  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants
  • Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By
  • The Science of Storytelling
  • A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught in School
  • First You Write a Sentence.: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life.
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques
  • The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins
  • The Silent Guides
  • The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World
  • The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading
  • Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers
  • The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language
  • Augmented Human: How Technology Is Shaping the New Reality
  • Around the World in 80 Days: Companion to the PBS Series
  • Delphi City (Delphi in Space #2)
  • Starship Sakira (Delphi in Space #1)
  • Delphi Nation (Delphi in Space #4)
See similar books…
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.
“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.”
“The alternative, should you, or any writer of English, choose to employ it (and who is to stop you?) is, by use of subordinate clause upon subordinate clause, which itself may be subordinated to those clauses that have gone before or after, to construct a sentence of such labyrinthine grammatical complexity that, like Theseus before you when he searched the dark Minoan mazes for that monstrous monster, half bull and half man, or rather half woman for it had been conceived from, or in, Pasiphae, herself within a Daedalian contraption of perverted invention, you must unravel a ball of grammatical yarn lest you wander for ever, amazed in the maze, searching through dark eternity for a full stop.” 10 likes
More quotes…