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on 14 January 2014
I previewed this book before buying it and was encouraged by the style and pace of the sample. Rhetoric may not seem like a particularly relevant skill in modern times but this book illustrates clearly how adepts in the art can turn a run-of-the-mill idea into an apparent gem of wisdom. If you think these concepts have fallen out of use, check out the latest political sound-bite to change your mind!

The book itself is a circular tour of a catalogue of rhetorical devices, entertainingly described and illustrated with examples from everyone from Plato (if memory serves) to The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The author defines each construction, then describes how it's been used by writers down through history. Using proverbs and quotations, he makes a case for the use of the construction, often offering alternative phrasings that, quite simply, don't cut the mustard like the original. At the end of each chapter, he finishes with a final example that's also an example of the device described in the next chapter (and, by the end, he arrives back where he started).

I was particularly taken with his opening passage, which starts with a denial of Shakespeare's genius (how often do you find someone going public with that?) No, says Forsyth, what Shakespeare did was to work at his art and get better at it with years of practice. He applied many of the concepts described later in the book and, when he did, he came out with his most memorable quotations. (Would anyone remember "Can anyone lend me a horse, please?" in comparison with what he actually wrote?)

If you have any love of language, this is a book you should read. If you ever have to speak in public, ditto. But please don't expect a dry, turgid exposition of rhetoric. This is a good read and something you could keep by the bedside to dip into whenever you get the urge.
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on 3 October 2017
I am a linguistic pedant and thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly the guidance on how to write English like Shakespeare (study rhetoric) and how his English improved during his career. I was also interested to learn that, as a child, Tolkien offended against the unwritten rule of word order for adjectives (see chapter 8) when he wrote a story about a "Green great dragon" rather than a "Great green dragon". I now give a copy of this book to my overseas students.
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on 25 June 2014
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.

I wish I was witty and clever enough to employ one of Mark Forsyth's grammatical tricks in writing this review. Sadly I am not. I only hope I have not dropped any proverbial clangers in doing so.

For all I simply want to say is if you love literature, song and the English language please do read this book.
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on 3 June 2017
I would recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in the technicalities of writing. It explains a range of rhetorical devices in a way that won't melt your brain with jargon and obfuscation, and may even cause you to let out the occasional chuckle. It's a subject I've wanted to explore for a long time, but until now I hadn't found an accessible enough text. This book is a delight.
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on 19 April 2017
Useful for those who speak in public when you need to inform, entertain and hold an audience.
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on 11 May 2017
Really enjoyed reading this book. I have learnt lots. Some of it is quite repetitive but the chapter by chapter breakdown makes the book readable.
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on 14 November 2016
It fills in massive gaps in my education - which was a very long time ago. The text is entertaining, and while some of it goes - WHOOSH - straight over my head on first reading - that makes a very good excuse to re-read, understand, and enjoy the fun bits again.
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on 18 July 2017
Ironically, words cannot do justice to how much of a pleasure it is to read this book. It's funny, it's clever, it's interesting, and it's peppered with literary examples that not only explain the point but open up an entirely new understanding of the sample texts and their authors. Shakespeare may not have been a genius, but Mark Forsyth surely is!
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on 13 January 2017
Thank you Mark Forsyth for the ultimate reference book on this never-taught essential. This is well written and slim enough to absorb quickly. Even a dullard like me can sound clever after absorbing some of these terms.
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on 7 August 2017
I seem to get less eloquent as I get older but that may be impatience with just about everything. This was an interesting and fun book.
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