Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Write a Sentence


There is a quotation on the inside cover of How to Write a Sentence that reads, “If you know sentences, you know everything. Good sentences promise nothing less than lessons and practice in the organisation of the world.” This quotation comes from the book's author, Stanley Fish, and at first sounds like a bold statement. But if you read this book, as I have, you may well end up a convert to the truth of these words.

Fish tells his reader that, while the content of sentences may be infinite, the forms and shapes of sentences are finite. If, through study and practice, we become familiar with these shapes and how they work, we can use them as vehicles for how own words, for our own message.

This method, sentence deconstruction, is preferable, Fish says, to examining sentences through the cold lens of English rules and grammar.

Fish uses examples of excellent sentences throughout the book. He cracks these sentences apart, revealing their inner workings and bones. How could we not see these things before?

This is not a simple book; at least I did not find it so. But it is useful, inspiring, and I wanted to begin it again as soon as I turned the last page.

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