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Elements of Expression
     

Elements of Expression

by Arthur Plotnik
 

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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!"

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.

Editorial Reviews

Inc
Speaking of Speaking: If you never present in public or speak in private; don't write reports, memos, or refrigerator notes; would sell your grandmother up the river rather than controvert a single rule of grammar learned in 10th grade; and hate reading smart, funny prose, then by all means forgo the purchase of Arthur Plotnik's The Elements of Expression (iUniverse.com, 1996). The rest of us, however, can learn a lot from Plotnik's irreverent alternative to Strunk and White. Plotnik wants readers to appreciate the rhythm and nuance of expressive language, whether written by Ezra Pound ("Nothing is worth publishing if it is not of the first intensity") or snarled by Chuck Norris ("When I want your advice, I'll beat it out of you"). For public speakers, he suggests slowly repeating the opening lines of the novel Lolita and listening to recordings of professional raconteurs like Spalding Gray. "Plotnik shows readers how to powerfully and precisely express their thoughts and feelings," says InfoPosse member Lisa Guedea CarreÑo. " The Elements of Expression is so funny and eccentric, it seems a shame to hide it away in the reference section.
151;Aug. 2002
George Cowmeadow Bauman
For those writers who are looking to polish their prose, Arthur Plotnik, author of the best-selling Elements of Editing and currently associate publisher of the American Library Association, has written The Elements of Expression. Avoiding pedantic stodginess of traditional style and usage guides, Plotnik persuades writers (and speakers) to have fun with language while simultaneously making your text more powerful and readable. He describes the process of putting thoughts into words as "more like flapping the tongue to escape gravity." This book is an entertaining encouragement.
Bookpage, July 1996
Al Rubottom
For those truly curious about expressiveness in English: The best, IMHO, new book this last year on writing [*not* technical] is The Elements of Expression, Putting Thoughts Into Words, by Arthur Plotnik, Henry Holt & Co., [not yet in paper but maybe by next year], ISBN 0-8050-3773-X [$20]. Plotnik is brilliant, an inspired and inspiring writer. His earlier The Elements of Editing is well-known, a standard reference. This new book is a masterpiece. Can't say enough good things about it. And BTW, he concisely and without apology [because none is needed!] lays out the appropriateness and power of the f-word [and other so-called bad words] in spoken and writtenusage. Even if [maybe *especially* if!] you have such highly sensitized moral(istic) antennae that you quiver all over when meeting the dreaded f-word, you really oughta read Plotnik. He makes it unambiguously clear how, and maybe even why, such "tough talk" works, and works well. Read and enjoy.
TECHWR-L, Sept. 22, 1996
Judith Rigler
" an informal conversation on…vibrant language…. Plotnik's lively book tells us how to come up with it."
Book Editor, San Antonio Express News (4/9/96)
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.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805037746
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/04/1997
Pages:
225
Product dimensions:
5.53(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.66(d)

What People are Saying About This

George Eberhart
"Plotnik writes like Woody Allen imitating Calvin Trillin emulating William Safire."
College and Research Libraries News
Inc. magazine
"The Elements of Expression is so funny and eccentric, it seems a shame to hide it away in the reference section."
Richard Lederer
"The Elements of Expression invites writers and speakers to make language that actually inhales and exhales, language with its shirtsleeves rolled up and its eyes ablaze."
—author of The Write Way

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