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The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook…
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The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose (1943)

by Robert Graves, Alan Hodge

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» See also 2 mentions

Showing 3 of 3
This book covers much the same territory as Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and I like it better. Each "principle of clear statement" is lavishly illustrated by bad prose, mostly from British non-fiction writers from the middle of the 20th century. Many of the examples include an explanation of how the writer got themselves into trouble and a re-write that corrects the problem. Graves and Hodge insist that you are writing for a reader whose understanding should be your most important goal, and show you how to keep that goal in mind. ( )
1 vote aulsmith | Jul 17, 2010 |
I love language books and books about words, and I love Robert Graves. However....after the first couple of chapters which present some interesting history of English and its qualities versus other languages, this book sinks into the most nit-picky uninteresting analysis of the use of prose that I have ever read. Just the opposite of the clarity you find in Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. From the other ratings this book has received, I may be in the minority here, but I certainly wanted to like this book. It had to work really really hard to arouse such a negative reaction in me. This one definitely goes on the giveaway list. ( )
  datrappert | May 31, 2010 |
An excellent guide to writing good English prose.
  Fledgist | Nov 24, 2007 |
Showing 3 of 3
The Reader Over Your Shoulder is a call for order. The authors have not troubled to diagnose the ills of the moribund; they have rather pointed out hints of the frightful disease in the superficially robust, and have chosen for their case-histories the athletes and champions. These case-histories, which they call 'Examinations and Fair Copies', occupy rather more than half the book and are the more stimulating part. The 200 pages which form a preface to them comprise a history of English language and a statement of the principles of good writing.

The first section might with profit be omitted. That kind of thing is still taught, I believe, between periods of'citizenship' and 'dietetics' at all but the most experimental schools. The chapters on the principles of good writing - clarity and grace - are worth close attention; much is stated as axiomatic which is, in fact, highly speculative. I found myself in frequent disagreement, but this is no place to open a controversy on jots and tittles. The reviewer does his duty by telling the reader why a book is likely to be of use to him. In this case few people can afford to disregard the authors' warnings, and the fact of its stirring the mind to consider questions too long disregarded is itself immensely valuable even where the solutions are dubious.
added by SnootyBaronet | editTablet, Evelyn Waugh (Jul 3, 1943)
 

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Robert Gravesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hodge, Alanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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INTRODUCTION This is the best book on writing ever published.
The most ancient European languages—those that have longest avoided infiltration by other languages—are the most complicated in their grammar and syntax.
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English does not run on its own rails, like French, with a simply managed mechanism of knobs and levers, so that any army officer or provincial mayor can always, at a minute’s notice, glide into a graceful speech in celebration of any local or national event, however unexpected. The fact is that English has altogether too many resources for the ordinary person, and nobody holds it against him if he speaks or writes badly.
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First published in 1947, The Reader Over Your Shoulder remains required reading for anyone who wants to write more clearly and artfully. Here editor Alan Hodge and author Robert Graves tells the reader to write as if 'a crowd of prospective readers were looking over their shoulder', anticipating possible questions and criticisms. They identifies the most common blunders writers make and lay out 41 principles showing how to avoid them. Their insights are as fresh as they were 70 years ago, and indispensable to writers of English prose.… (more)

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