by Bill Walsh
The Elephants of Style
McGraw-Hill, March, 2004.
Trade paperback, 238 pages.
For those who are called upon to write often and under the pressure of deadlines, Bill Walsh's Elephants of Style is a welcome and witty friend. For all of those who have ever groaned when they found, too late, a clumsy sentence that had already been read by many, The Elephants of Style is fast, easy help. After all, one's high school grammar book is not likely to be enjoyable reading, and worse, will probably not answer specific problems that may confront a writer. As copy chief for national news at The Washington Post, Bill Walsh is on the front lines in the battle to keep the English language the sensible, logical and powerful workhorse that serves us so well.
For those who simply enjoy language in all its forms or those who are tying to guide the young into saying what they have to say in intelligible prose, this handbook will put a little humor into the drudgery of writing. Mr. Walsh uses puns and other forms of literary humor in chapters titled "The Spin Wins: Great Moments in Obfuscation," and discussions of the way that an earnest writer can be ambushed by ambiguity, such as what the term "foreseeable future" can possibly mean. The latest verbal viruses to infect the language, such as misplaced and undeserved apostrophes, when to comma and when not to comma, and how to deal with the horrors visited on the language by the scribes of advertising, are all met head on and quickly trounced by the author's searing logic. No longer will thoughtless spokespersons be able to use senseless terms such as "foreseeable future," which -- as Mr. Walsh points out -- is never foreseeable.
The Elephants of Style belongs on a writer's bookshelf as an insurance policy against tangled syntax, meaningless terms and the varied assaults on intelligent communication that threaten the language that we share with the world.
--Sarah Reaves White
The Elephants of Style is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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