Marcie’s Book Review: “How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One”

4 Nov

How to write a sentence - Stanley Fish

No disrespect to Professor Stanley Fish, the author of “How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One,” but this book is too long and too complicated to teach people how to write a sentence.

First of all, a book on how to write a sentence should NOT be 163 pages. That’s even intimidating to a writer like me who love words, sentences and paragraphs.  But, I guess you have to be a highly scholastic student or practitioner of writing to appreciate the content and number of pages. And, you shouldn’t need a dictionary to read about how to write sentences.

Speaking of content, let me share some of the chapter titles with you.

  • The Subordinating Style (Chapter 5) – What does that mean?
  • The Additive Style (Chapter 6) – If I think food, I may get it.
  • The Satiric Style: The Return of Content (Chapter 7) – Are you kidding me????

Oh, the words on the pages get better: “Prepositional phrases”, “past or present participles”, “adverbs”, “nouns” and “adjectives.” Although I know I use those things in my writings and blog posts in any given day, I cannot tell you what the first two terms mean. So, what this means is…I am NOT Smarter than a 5th Grader.

To add insult to injury, check out this statement. They confuse a taxonomy of the parts of a speech with an analysis of a sentence’s logical structure.Riiiightt.

One interesting statement that screamed at me was, “…verbal fluency is the product of hours spent writing about nothing.” This confirms that the more you write, the better you get at speaking. But here’s my concern: Would you make sense??

But the next sentence would really mess you up if  you really wanted to write sentences: “Nonsense sentences – sentences that display a logical arrangement of components, but are without a discernible message – may be the best material.” Not only will you NOT know how to write sentences,  you will sound illogical just like my prior statement did -  even if your words are arranged in a logical manner.

It is not until you reach Chapter 4 that you find out what a good sentence is and how to write one. That is…if you can make it through the first three chapters of big words and long explanations. Yes, that was ONLY three chapters.

Anyhoo, I am going to end here. I was really excited about this book until I saw the number of pages. And the content? Forget it. “How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One” will be gracing the shelves of my local library tomorrow. If Mr. Fisher wrote anything about how to read a sentence, I missed it because of my efforts to understand how to write one.

This book has inspired me on two levels. One, when I write my writing book, I promise it will be 100 pages or less. And two, I will use simple, every day words that aspiring writers, novice writers and more experienced writers can relate to and understand without a dictionary.

If you have read “How to Write A Sentence” and can explain it in laymen terms and simple words, I would love to hear from you.

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4 Responses to “Marcie’s Book Review: “How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One””

  1. Kevin J. Parham November 4, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    Very succinctly stated, Marcie! You obviously have a natural ability to string words together to form cohesive sentences. Some writers jump at the opportunity to ‘impress’ others with their literary acumen (real or imagined) by attempting to use the most sophisticated version of a word when a simple one will do. I guess it makes them feel a sense of superiority.

    Although I have not read the book in question, I can certainly understand where you are coming from.

    Best,
    Kevin

    • Marcie Hill November 4, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Kevin, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I found the content quite intimidating considering the simplicity of the title. If you happen to read it, please share what you learned. Thanks!

  2. AG November 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Great post! Really gave me a lot to think about – I appreciate it soooo so much

    • Marcie Hill November 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

      Hey AG, I appreciate you stopping through. Glad I could help.

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