The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words

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There are many grammar and usage books that give advice on correct English. This isn't one of them. The Elements of Expression targets expressiveness as a goal apart from getting it technically right. Imagine the yawns a sportscaster would induce by announcing, "His bat struck the ball and the ball went into the stands," instead of "He took that ball downtown!" And why say, "I'd prefer it if you didn't volunteer your opinions," if what you ...
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Overview

There are many grammar and usage books that give advice on correct English. This isn't one of them. The Elements of Expression targets expressiveness as a goal apart from getting it technically right. Imagine the yawns a sportscaster would induce by announcing, "His bat struck the ball and the ball went into the stands," instead of "He took that ball downtown!" And why say, "I'd prefer it if you didn't volunteer your opinions," if what you really mean is "When I want your advice, I'll beat it out of you" (Chuck Norris, Code of Silence)?

Written with uncommon wit and humor, The Elements of Expression offers writers, speakers, and self-improvers a fresh look at how they express (or fail to express) their thoughts and feelings. Plotnik supplies many engaging examples of adventurous language to show the tremendous power of words to describe and enliven human experience.

Want merely to write correctly? Turn to those shelf-loads of "proper" books. For people who care about language and want to write or speak forcefully, effectively—in a word, expressively—this is the book to crack open.

About the Author

Arthur Plotnik is a distinguished writer, editor, and former publishing executive whose many books include the highly acclaimed The Elements of Editing and, more recently, Spunk and Bite. He lives in Chicago—"an expressive town"—with his wife, the artist Mary Phelan.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This entertaining potpourri of thoughts about words by the associate publisher of the American Library Association touches on a variety of philological concerns. Plotnik (Elements of Editing) fails to lead with his strength: not a trained linguist, he does draw a distinction between prescriptive and descriptive grammar, coming down heavily in favor of the latter and ignoring possibilities of compromise. But he gets into trouble when he classifies all expressions as either standard or substandard, allowing for no distinction between formal and informal usage and accusing "authorities" of giving slang, jargon, argot and the like roughly equal status But once he turns to the steps leading to expressiveness, he is most effective, demonstrating a fine ability to choose quotations from writers past and present that really sing. He deals with verbal power, clichs, borrowing apt phrases from others, jargon and even public speaking. A helpful little compendium for writers and speakers wishing to brush up on their prose. (Apr.)
Joanne Wilkinson
This is a well-written guide to making your writing more expressive, done by the associate publisher of ALA Editions who is also the author of the best-selling "Elements of Editing" 1982. After first lamenting the paucity of modern expression--a pattern he attributes to our age of standardization and mass media--Plotnik gives an overview of grammatical theory and standard English. He then provides numerous tips on how to write or speak in a lively, engaging, and forceful fashion. In an especially effective technique, Plotnik lists, in two-column format, the same sentiment expressed first in conventional language and then in more adventurous prose, often in the form of exquisite quotations from some of our best writers. These examples are accompanied by compact, insightful analysis on exactly how the language connects or fails to do so. Other topics covered include the judicious use of quotations, cliches, speechmaking, and jargon. A valuable book for both neophyte and veteran writers and speakers.
Diane Brandley

[G]enuinely funny. Mr. Plotnik seeks to enlighten but also to entertain, making the skill of quality expressiveness a goal, rather than some elusive daydream. . . . The strongest parts of the book contrast insipid or ordinary modes of expression with clear, powerful methods.
—New York Journal of Books (6/12/12 www.nyjournalofbooks.com/review/elements-expression-putting-thoughts-words-2nd-edition)

Lisa Romero

Plotnik is concerned about—no, make that fervent, ardent, zealous, even fanatical about—making the language of the written word as interesting and precise as possible. . . . This book roots for language that is not just right but bright, which communicates the truest tone and shading and the finest distinctions . . . . work that is irresistible, engrossing, unpredictably original...
—ForeWord (6/27/12 www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-elements-of-expression/)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760782576
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 6/25/2006
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Arthur Plotnik is a versatile author with a distinguished background in editing and publishing. Among his seven previous books (not to mention 22 pseudonymous potboilers early in his career) are The Elements of Editing and The Elements of Expression, both Book-of-the-Month Club selections, and the best-selling Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style. His articles, op-eds, and literary pieces have been published widely, including his columns in The Writer magazine, on whose editorial board he serves.

Plotnik studied under Philip Roth in the Iowa Writers Workshop, was a reporter for the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union, and after earning a second graduate degree, worked as a Library of Congress staffer in Washington and magazine editor in New York. He received numerous honors and awards as a long-time editor and publisher with the American Library Association in Chicago. He lives in that city with his wife and an avalanchine tumble of jottings for Better than Great.

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