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on 9 May 1998
Joseph Williams' book, "Style: Toward Clarity and Grace" is the best book on writing I have ever read, by far. Williams himself describes the emphasis of the book on page one: "Telling me to 'Be clear' is like telling me to 'Hit the ball squarely.' I know that. What I don't know is how to do it." But Williams does know how to write well, and his explanations are precise and concrete.
This book takes a sort of linguistic, almost scientific approach to improving your writing style. I first learned of Williams' work in "The Language Instinct," by the Stephen Pinker, the acclaimed professor of linguistics from MIT.
Unlike every other writing book, this one is more than a laundry list of grammatical shoulds and shouldn'ts. This book is about HOW-- how to write to suit the human brain's innate method of processing information.
I am a professional writer, and I have a whole book case filled with grammar books. But this book is worth more than all the others combined. If you're a writer, this is the book you've been looking for.
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on 8 June 1999
Go to any bookstore (cyber or otherwise) - see writing books arrayed row upon row. Now, take down a copy of "Style" by Joseph Williams, and leave Zinsser and Strunk & White collecting dust on the shelf, because William's is the only one you'll ever need. Williams describes the actual writing process better than anyone, and presents a method which an aspiring writer may employ to accomplish his or her writing goals - whatever they are! And he does it without recourse to the usual grammatical rules and "mechanics of writing" approach. That approach [resumptive modifier!] never helped anyone become a better writer - and it sure discouraged a lot of us!
Make no mistake! This is not beach reading, as Williams himself would tell you. Williams develops an entire system of writing over the course of the book, adding to it chapter by chapter. If you're not used to sustained intellectual effort, or if you have a short attention span, this book will definitely be a stretch. It requires prolonged concentration. But if you put forth the effort, it will be rewarded! I've read this book through at least eight times cover to cover, and while I'm not a great writer, I've improved immeasurably.
My compliments to Professor Williams - a great book!
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on 25 November 1998
For people who are serious about improving their writing skills, this is an excellent how-to book. Prof. Williams does not dispense facile advice ("use the active voice") or mindless rules of usage and grammar ("don't split infinitives"). Instead, he teaches you, step by step, how to construct sentences and paragraphs that are clear, concise, coherent, even elegant. He explains in great detail the principles and techniques involved in achieving clarity, grace, and other attributes of good writing. And he illustrates these principles and techniques with many specific, telling examples. "Style" is not a quick read, but it is definitely worth the effort.
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on 23 November 2000
Am only 2/3 of the way through this book, bought while looking for works for science postgraduates, to help them with their writing. This one deals perceptively with the intangibles - concision, clarity, cohesiveness - that many scientific writing books mention but never quite get to the bottom of. Its focus is on what readers need from text, and this is of course what drives what the writer has to put there. The ideas have been around for a while, but what is new is that Williams is able to articulate them as clear principles, which a writer could follow in revising his/her own work. They work, too. Thus this book suffers less from the fate of others, which is to drown in a series of hundreds of illustrative examples. There are also very perceptive examples of how writers go about writing. Well worth a read. For scientists and postgraduate science students: this book is excellent, and will probably clear up a lot of your uncertainty about how to write well.I would think it would take you well beyond the standard of writing required in a thesis. For others - if you ever send email, this is for you! Email is perhaps the easiest form of text toget down on paper. Email offers you several opportunities each day to exercise your skills at revising first drafts. With this book, you too can produce messages which pack an information-loaded punch, and are also enjoyable to read.
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on 2 May 1999
By itself, this book is helpful. But its not nearly as helpful as Williams other book "Style - Ten Lessons Towards Clarity & Grace," which is also available through Amazon.com. This version of Style simply presents Williams' theories about writing, but it does not provide the reader with the "workbook" drills that are contained in "Ten Lessons." A reader will only understand the value of Williams' techniques after he's had a chance to apply them. I recommend this book without reservation, but believe that most readers will benefit more from the "Ten Lessons" version.
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on 6 July 2009
It is one of the best books on the market for students and researchers. We often face a blank page not knowing how to get started. Williams gets us back to basics, he recommends to tell a story and choosing the story before we start writing.
Another very useful suggestion is to use basic original English to write about complicated concepts. Too many researchers think they write intelligent research while using complex words. But written more directly, the message comes across more clearly.
I have recommended this book to all English and non English speakers who had to write in English. Read it for half an hour before you start writing, you'll notice the dramatic improvement of your writing.
It is must buy.
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on 26 July 2011
I bought this book to improve my story writing; it wasn't much help. This book is mainly concerned with technical writing.

If, like me, you learned English decades ago and haven't used it much; you won't like the style of this book. It is heavily into technical jargon, and you will have to knock a lot of stuff back into you head to get and appreciation of what this book has to offer.

The book does have an interesting introduction to the history of the technical development of the English Language. Although, not the intention of book, this offers working class layman an excellent understanding of why the English language is so difficult to learn and why working class people prefer to use a restricted vocabulary.

Despite comments at the beginning of the book about using plain language, this book is clearly written for the university educated and not the plain speaking layman. The author does manage to keep a fairly even-handed attitude throughout the book, except for a Freudian slip of labelling university educated people as `educated' and non university people as `uneducated'.

There is a section in the book about the `rights and wrongs' of breaking the grammar/punctuation rules of English. The author says that you should always obey the rules, however the author makes it plain that the grammar/punctuation police don't have a technical leg to stand on when they cram it down the throats of the unwilling.

More suited to someone who still has all the theory in their head; not suited to the `I need to brush up brigade'.
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on 5 February 2014
Improving upon a cumbersome writing is a task does not come easily. Reading grammar books does not solve this issue. This book does not have daunting grammar rules, but the explanations flow through that are easy to comprehend- and possibly to follow.
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on 17 February 2016
Perfectly fine condition, though the Atlantic and delivery from New York seemed to present unexpected obstacles.
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on 30 April 2014
This is a well book at a really good price. I am very happy with this purchase. Very happy !
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