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English Prose Style

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A classic book on the elements of good English prose, originally published in 1928 and revised in 1952.


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A classic book on the elements of good English prose, originally published in 1928 and revised in 1952.

46 review for English Prose Style

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aatif Rashid

    It's sometimes hilariously old fashioned (originally published 1928, but in places feels like 1828) and has an outdated conception of prose that emphatically distinguishes it from poetry and argues that prose should first and foremost be explanatory (he doesn't, for example, approve of most metaphor). Nevertheless, he analyzes prose rhythm in a way few people I've read are able, and there are moments when he makes some profound comments about art: “There is an intimate, biological connection betw It's sometimes hilariously old fashioned (originally published 1928, but in places feels like 1828) and has an outdated conception of prose that emphatically distinguishes it from poetry and argues that prose should first and foremost be explanatory (he doesn't, for example, approve of most metaphor). Nevertheless, he analyzes prose rhythm in a way few people I've read are able, and there are moments when he makes some profound comments about art: “There is an intimate, biological connection between sensation and rhythm. Pain and sorrow are often expressed in rhythmical swaying movements; joy is expressed in rhythmical dances; religious emotions in ritual—there is no need to expatiate on such a commonplace social psychology. The voice has its visceral controls, and though it would be rash to assume that the rhythmical reactions of the viscera and larynx to a strong emotion are the rhythms of the accompanying speech, yet these physical connections should be remembered since they are the basis of those refinements of expression which art introduces. What else is art, or conscience and intelligence for that matter, but a subtle extenuation and spiritualization of the gross physical responses of a body to its environment?”

  2. 4 out of 5

    B. Factor

    I read this book for inspiration right before I have to write a large document.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Gallagher

    It's tough to say where English Prose Style belongs on the writer's bookshelf. It's more of an artifact than a practical guide to writing well. It was written for a British audience in the early 20th century, which means Read sometimes discusses how you might extend your sentences to 100 words or more by joining clauses with colons and semi-colons. This style of writing just isn't relevant anymore. In many parts of the book, though, it's not so much an 'artifact' as a style guide based on histor It's tough to say where English Prose Style belongs on the writer's bookshelf. It's more of an artifact than a practical guide to writing well. It was written for a British audience in the early 20th century, which means Read sometimes discusses how you might extend your sentences to 100 words or more by joining clauses with colons and semi-colons. This style of writing just isn't relevant anymore. In many parts of the book, though, it's not so much an 'artifact' as a style guide based on historical principles, and in this way "English Prose Style" is fascinating to read. If you reorganized it a bit, you could turn it into a book on the history of English prose style. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who wants to learn how to write. Instead, browse The Elements of Style or commit yourself to reading a more complete treatment of modern writing like The Oxford Guide to Writing. As a book about writing, though, English Prose Style is rich. It's a diptych that splits English into the usual "Composition" and "Rhetoric," but written for the person who loves to break down beautiful styles. A reviewer for the New York Times wrote that "'English Prose Style' appealed to the vivisectionist in me, the part that enjoys dismantling butterflies and trying to cement them together again." And Read is punctilious about proper style: he doesn't hesitate to accuse Santayana of not being able to hold a rhythm or Swift of occasionally writing "like a servant girl." The book's practical strengths are its use of extensive use of excerpts and its historical lessons. Read will reproduce several pages of prose in order to give the reader a full sense of different styles, and the book really benefits from this, because any comment on style that limits itself to a single sentence or a single paragraph is incomplete. You need a whole set piece or a whole essay to really understand the intention behind the sentences and phrases and words. And a natural consequence of this is that the book is filled with great writing. It's hard to come away from it without being inspired. Another consequence is that there is no room for extended discussions. The book is often short on details and long on (enlightening) theoretical discussions. But not always consistently. Occasionally, you run into an exposition of specific rules, like types of sentences and ways to end a passage. These usually feel unnecessary, or leave you wondering why he doesn't also elaborate on specific techniques of narrative or fantasy. Ultimately, though, I'm happy he left the details of composition out of most chapters: Read is strongest in his theoretical passages. On the subject of practical learning material, if you're careful about what you pick up and what you leave behind, you can take a lot from English Prose Style. Read's specific advice is out of date, and his philosophical comments are sometimes unusual ("The sentence as a unit in prose style is best approached from the evolutionary standpoint suggested by Jespersen. ...Jespersen says... that we must think of primitive language 'as consisting (chiefly at least) of very long words, full of difficult sounds, and sung rather than spoke'." Is this helping?), but always thoughtful and thought-provoking. But Read's book is historically grounded, an attribute that's missing in most of the how-to books I've looked through. He offers insight into the prose elements that were valued by Jonathon Swift, Robert Southey, and other old-time greats. You'll learn what historically defined prose and its rhetorical elements, which makes certain sections of the book timeless. I pick up Read's book when I want to meditate on writing, to learn about prose's roots, to get a little inspiration, to chew on one of his philosophical points, to watch him pick apart esteemed writers. I recommend it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Graham

    A fine dissection of what made English prose through history. Speckled with fine illustrative quotations. At the very least, if you want a source book for examples of fine prose writing through history - this a great start. Here is a quote from the New York Times on the book: ''English Prose Style'' is a book for vivisectionists and taxonomists and theoreticians. It is for critics, and book reviewers too, if they already happen to know how to write. But it is not for would-be writers any more th A fine dissection of what made English prose through history. Speckled with fine illustrative quotations. At the very least, if you want a source book for examples of fine prose writing through history - this a great start. Here is a quote from the New York Times on the book: ''English Prose Style'' is a book for vivisectionists and taxonomists and theoreticians. It is for critics, and book reviewers too, if they already happen to know how to write. But it is not for would-be writers any more than wet concrete is for long-distance runners. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/09/23/bo...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alexandre

    Livro muito bom sobre estilo (especialmente na língua inglesa, mas aplicável em partes na portuguesa).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Theo

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed Juhany

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wiebren Wijma

  9. 4 out of 5

    Will

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Leeds

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam Smith

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Bossert

  13. 4 out of 5

    bradley s bankston

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Roche

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vinni

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tyrone

  17. 4 out of 5

    Seth

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hank Adams

  19. 4 out of 5

    Russell Giglio

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sabita Biswas

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lolo Pass

    Excellent. A clear-headed analysis.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sidney Kochman

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Buthina Almahbashi

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 5 out of 5

    Seth Kolloen

  30. 5 out of 5

    SW

  31. 4 out of 5

    Philomath

  32. 4 out of 5

    Riz

  33. 5 out of 5

    Peterkein

  34. 5 out of 5

    Luna

  35. 5 out of 5

    Mikaela

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  37. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

  38. 5 out of 5

    Enrico Ferla

  39. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

  40. 5 out of 5

    Mollie the Cat

  41. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  42. 5 out of 5

    Seamus Mcduff

  43. 4 out of 5

    Nana

  44. 5 out of 5

    Houman Sadri

  45. 4 out of 5

    Sebastián

  46. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

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