Book Review: The Elements of Eloquence – How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth

The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English PhraseThe Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a must-read for any lover of the English language or writer who wishes to hone their craft. It is not, however, a how-to book. For a start off, it’s far too hilarious!

Mark Forsyth is a superb writer whose wit is only exceeded by his depth of knowledge. In the book you’ll find more than forty wonderful techniques used by great writers to make their writing more interesting and take it out of the mundane. Forsyth constantly jokes making every page a real joy while also making each idea very clear and, helpfully, often showing you how great passages would sound if they hadn’t used the techniques being discussed.

For me, as a writer, I found every single chapter left me thinking “I’ve got to try this in my next bit of writing” and I suspect I will end up re-reading this book many times over to drink in the ideas.

Undoubtedly, Forsyth’s humour is not for everyone and this will diminish the enjoyment for some readers. But the nuggets of gold inside are worth taking away anyway. Furthermore, each chapter it relatively short making it a charming and easy read – no easy task of a book tackling such things as anadiplosis, hendiadys and that most tricky of subjects – the rhetorical question!

If you’re new to the world of grammar then this is not going to be a helpful book. Go find out how to use a colon and avoid the passive first. But then, once you’ve got to grips with the basics, come back to this treasure and make it your Bible. Your writing will improve tremendously, of that I’m sure. If nothing else you’ll giggle a lot and learn a new respect for the great writers and a fair number of songwriters too.

Finally, I have to say that in the last few pages, Forsyth made a statement which almost had me stand on the chair and shout “yes, by God that’s EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking for so long!” I will let you read it yourself but basically he makes the case that current advice for writers – to write simply, clearly and in as few words as possible – is wrong. I’m with him 100% on that.

I can’t recommend or praise this book enough. Go read it.

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