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The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words

The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words

4.8 7
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!"


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

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.)
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/)

Product Details

iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.72(h) x 0.65(d)

What People are Saying About This

Maurice J. Freedman

[H]eartily recommended as an excellent reference book or to circulate as a fun yet instructive read for everyone who wants to communicate effectively in any medium.
—Maurice J. Freedman (the U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian, #163, 2012 editor@unabashedlibrarian.com)

George Eberhart
"Plotnik writes like Woody Allen imitating Calvin Trillin emulating William Safire."
College and Research Libraries News
Stina Lindenblatt

If you love the study of language, definitely pick it up. If you want to write with eloquence and wit, this is the book for you. . . . . The Elements of Expression is filled with wit that left me laughing at the most inopportune times. In other words, this isn't like those much dreaded high school English textbooks. I don't remember any of them having a chapter on 'Make My Day: The Power of Tough Talk'.
—Stina Lindenblatt (On My Writerly Bookshelf, 6/18/12 www.stinalindenblatt.com/2012/06/on-my-writerly-bookshelf.html)

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

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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The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every writer needs this book! Art Plotnik is a guru of grammar and a style savant that really helps any writer dig deep inside and pull out the excellence.  I learned so much from him and I recomment this book  VERY highly. Do yourself a favor and keep this as a refernce. Your readers will thank you ( and thank Art Plotnik!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a writer, I am constantly on the prowl for new and refreshing literature to get my head back in the game and remind me what it is that I am passionate about and how best to go about letting all of that passion out. the book covers language, expression, grammar, and so much more. The content is relevant, relatable, and undeniably helpful. It's a great read for writers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plotnik is very helpful with how a writer can sharpen their language to make better use of their words. He says "We struggle with words because they separate us from the lowing beasts and tell the world who we are, what we want, and why." To me this sums the book up perfectly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plotnik brings an enjoyable and witty outlook to advice giving. Covering everything from Public speaking to writing. He was so enjoyable to read; I learned things that I never knew I needed advice on.  I picked this book up for some help with school and found myself craving to read more; I couldn’t put it down. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Elements of Expression dispels myths your grammar teachers hammered into you and allows you to accept that there are multiple (and many!) forms of suitable expression. Not only does this book cover a vast array of contextualized situations where one may need to express oneself, but it does so in a way that is accessible and relatable. Plotnik quotes from Shakespeare to Richard Pryor in a way that proves he is able to capture a wide audience. I can see his words having the ability to reach anyone; I know they spoke to me. If you start the book feeling like an empty vessel, by the end he will have you overflowing with different means of communication. I recommend this book to anyone searching for a little vocabulary refreshment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
..The Elements of Expression is a great resource for anyone trying to improve their public speaking or their ability to generally express themselves. I especially enjoyed the section on slang. Definitely recommend this book to anyone who speaks English (and maybe even those who don't)!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fun way to expand the way you express yourself through words! Plotnik does a great job of pointing out things that you don't know without being condescending or removed, and instead of shaming you for not knowing will give you new ways to build up the elements you use in your expression! This book is a great and easy read, designed to make sense instead of confuse. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something fun and interesting that will improve the way you communicate through written and spoken word!