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

Mark Forsyth
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

7 Nov 2013
In an age unhealthily obsessed with substance, this is a book on the importance of pure style, from the bestselling author of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon. From classic poetry to pop lyrics and from the King James Bible to advertising slogans, Mark Forsyth explains the secrets that make a phrase - such as 'Tiger, Tiger, burning bright', or 'To be or not to be' - memorable. In his inimitably entertaining and witty style he takes apart famous lines and shows how you too can write like Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde. Whether you're aiming for literary immortality or just an unforgettable one-liner, The Elements of Eloquence proves that you don't need to have anything to say - you simply need to say it well. 'Sparkling ...the book offers many pleasures ...I laughed out loud at the examples chosen' Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

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The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase + The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language + The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; 1st edition (7 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848316216
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848316218
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Sparkling ... the book offers many pleasures ... I laughed out loud at the examples chosen' -- Charles Moore Daily Telegraph 'An informative but highly entertaining journey through the figures of rhetoric ... Mark Forsyth wears his considerable knowledge lightly. He also writes beautifully.' -- David Marsh Guardian 'It is good news that the popular author of The Etymologicon should now potter round the rhetorical warehouse at our elbow, commenting on the choicer goods on view, for he is well-informed and amusing.' -- Christopher Howse The Spectator 'The Elements of Eloquence makes a daunting, potentially boring subject exciting ... Forsyth's wickedly clever, irreverent take on rhetoric should cement his reputation as a virtuoso: it is hard to think of any other book that tackles the topic with such style.' -- South China Morning Post 'Highly entertaining, short, sharp and to the point ... all life and language is here!' Good Book Guide

About the Author

Mark Forsyth is a blogger and author whose books have made him one of the UK's best-known commentators on words. His book The Etymologicon was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and was followed by the similarly successful The Horologicon. Follow Mark on Twitter @inkyfool

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, witty and fulfilling 10 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book if you are at all interested in English and the resonance particular phrases have had and continue to have down the ages. Forsyth wears his knowledge lightly and what could have been a turgid over-serious tome turns out to be a bright, easy to read and absorbing piece of work. I have to admit to reading it today in virtually one sitting it takes such a hold on you. Don't be put off by the chapter titles, which are obscure (in the most part) grammatical terms or the "flowers of rhetoric" as they've been called. On the contrary, accept the challenge of finding out what they all mean, what relevance they have in literature and life, and prepare to be educated almost without realising it. Writers from Lennon and McCartney to Blake, from Shakespeare to George Lucas all get a look in here, so If you enjoyed Forsyth's previous 2 books in a similar vein then you will know what to expect. For those new to the author this will open your eyes in a most entertaining way.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book you will ever read 23 Nov 2013
By niggle
Well OK that is a bold statement! what about Trainspotting, The Bible, Shakespeare? well they all owe a little to the writing techniques explained in this book. Some say that Shakespeare was a genius but would he have been quite so lauded if he didn't have his little bag of tricks? from Alliteration to Anaphora its all here beautifully and wittily explained and bang up to date with quotes ranging from all the major works, oh and Yoda and Katy Perry. The scales will fall from your eyes as each trick is revealed. I can't put it down.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to anyone who loves words 17 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Who would ever guess that the figures of rhetoric are the basis of so many speeches and sayings that we admire? The book was a revelation to me of the formal Greek ideas that underpin the more memorable lines we read and hear. It could be academical and dry as dust, but with Mark Forsyth writing it, it's laugh out loud funny.
Drawing on extracts from Shakespeare and John Lennon plus Dickens and Carry On Cleo and a host of others this book reminded me just what joy it can be to live in a literary world.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential for any writer or lover of English 25 Nov 2013
By B. M. Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER
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 since the time of the ancient Greeks and that was, until it went out of fashion, a major part of the school curriculum - rhetoric.

Now, if you told me a couple of weeks ago that I would wax lyrical about a book on rhetoric, I would not have believed you. 'Rhetoric' just sounds really dull. As a subject, it sounds as if it would make politics look engaging. Yet, as Forsyth so ably demonstrates, rhetoric is simply the key tools and techniques of getting something across in words in a way that will catch the attention and engage the reader. Although originally aimed primarily at speeches, these techniques are equally important for the written word.

A couple of hundred years ago children were taught rhetoric - now we have to pick it up by osmosis as our English teachers rabbit on about 'what the author was feeling when she wrote this' or 'what the author really means.' How much more valuable to teach us 'what techniques and tricks the author is using to reel the reader in.'

Admittedly the whole field could do with a bit of a work over. If their science was anything to go by, I can't believe the ancient Greeks had the last word on rhetoric - there are probably key tools and techniques they weren't aware of. And the current terminology is horrendous.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But me no Buts. A Worthy Read 28 Nov 2013
Using a format rather like that of a cheery chat over a pint, Mark Forsyth attempts to remove the fear factor from that most alarming of subjects, English grammar. More specifically here though, we're concerned with rhetoric, or how great phrases are minted and why they work.

Citing The Beatles, Churchill and (mostly) Shakespeare, Forsyth is always illuminating and often amusing. Yes, he's fond of the sweeping statement, and as he builds up a head of steam the occasional error creeps in (it's doubtful whether Shakespeare would have been too happy with 'Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow /Creeps into this petty place'), but possibly all's forgivable in the context of this casual and non-threatening approach.

A turn-by-turn run through figures of rhetoric, Forsyth beckons one on with the promise that memorable phrases are within one's own reach...let's deconstruct a Shakespeare speech and so detect the tricks which make it work; then you can do it too!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Elements of Eloquence 9 Dec 2013
The Element of Eloquence is Mark Forsyth's delightful ode to linguistic style over substance. Using classic works (such as Blake's Tiger, Tiger) and the techniques of literary heavyweights (such as Shakespeare and Chaucer) to illustrate how phrases can be rendered instantly memorable and pleasing to the ear, Forsyth explains how following a few simple (and some decidedly complicated) rules can help you write with the style and panache calculated to appeal to readers. With The Element of Eloquence Mark Forsyth manages to inform and entertain; he's clearly incredibly knowledgeable on literary matters but he also have a very pleasing and amusing writing style all of his own.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I always love this kind of stuff. If you love language you will love this.
Published 4 days ago by Tony Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inky Fool Strikes Again
Easily as engaging as the Etymologicon. You'll pick it up, open any chapter, and be hooked until you have drained every drop of the wisdom distilled here. Read more
Published 18 days ago by R. A. Caton
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Brilliant.
A sharp, satisfying, wilfully witty read ! :) Drawing on examples from Milton and Shakespeare to Bob Dylan and Roxette (! Read more
Published 21 days ago by hmmmm
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting - just wish I could remember them all.
Published 29 days ago by P. Walden
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 1 month ago by Jwinter
5.0 out of 5 stars Have an interesting conversation or two.
Another useful book to make conversations more interesting!
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Clodagh M H McNair
3.0 out of 5 stars What a dreadful thing to do to a beautifully designed book
I would have given this more stars (for the content) but Amazon spoiled an elegantly bound and decorated cover (not the dust jacket - the book has no dust jacket) by fixing a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Doll house addict
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating
What a great read.

I did have to keep back tracking and rereading whole sentences, even swathes of this book in order to be sure I had read what I thought I had... Read more
Published 2 months ago by jenny norman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I bought this book hoping to learn something. I did not expect to be hugely entertained in the process. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jayte
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I have read the first chapter to my pupils, I'm an English teacher, so they understand exactly why we teach them this stuff. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lisa H
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