Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing [NOOK Book]


Whether you are working on the novel that's been in the back of your mind for years or simply facing an increasing demand to write well at work or school, the fact remains: more and more of us are writing more often these days-reports, e-mails, faxes, and newsletters. But despite the increase in written communication, something has been lost-the fundamentals of good writing. Grammar maven Patricia T. O'Conner comes to the rescue with the most painless, practical, and funny writing book ever written. In short, ...
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Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing

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Whether you are working on the novel that's been in the back of your mind for years or simply facing an increasing demand to write well at work or school, the fact remains: more and more of us are writing more often these days-reports, e-mails, faxes, and newsletters. But despite the increase in written communication, something has been lost-the fundamentals of good writing. Grammar maven Patricia T. O'Conner comes to the rescue with the most painless, practical, and funny writing book ever written. In short, snappy chapters filled with crystal-clear examples, amusing comparisons, and humorous allegories that cover everything from "Pronoun Pileups" and "Verbs That Zing" to "What to Do When You're Stuck," O'Conner provides simple, straightforward tips to help you sort your thoughts and make sentences that make sense. Push aside those stuffy old-fashioned rule books, because O'Conner has written the most accessible and enjoyable book yet for today's writer.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Words to Live By

Ever laughed aloud while reading? While reading a book on grammar? You will, thanks to language maven Patricia O'Conner, who celebrates the written word with vibrant passion and exceptional clarity. Her style is refreshingly engaging, as she parses sentences economically and with flair. Whether hacks or scribes or yeoman users of English, readers who delighted in O'Conner's bestselling Woe is I will rejoice once more, for her new book -- Words Fail Me -- resumes her direct, humorous assault on misbehaving modifiers, comma sense, and other linguistic maladies.

At the core, communication is a two-part process: An idea is expressed, then it is received. Ideally, that idea is received exactly as intended, and the communication succeeds. Of course, experience demonstrates the fragility of this model. Drawing from a lifetime of writing and editing, including years at The New York Times Book Review, O'Conner explores the reasons behind the rules of written engagement. Then, she nimbly demonstrates strategies to strengthen the message. O'Conner says it best:

"You think nobody cares about grammar? The next time you post a message to an Internet newsgroup, try mixing up it's and its, lie and lay, or there and their, and see what happens. The grammar police will be on your case, and you'll get so many flames that your modem will smoke.

"Believe me, people care. Whether you're writing e-mail or snail mail, a Web page or a page of memoir, grammar counts. Readers may dismiss writing that's otherwise okay, even terrific, if the grammar is screwed up. This is no small matter, particularly when you're trying to make a good impression -- applying for a job, say, or trying to sell a book proposal, or writing an essay for admission to college."

As with her first book, O'Conner's latest effort delivers on many levels and for many readerships. Average writers will find the advice tangible and interesting and the anecdotes memorable. For semipro lexicographers, the pleasures are even more immediate; O'Conner is a master wordsmith of nuance and weight. Words Fail Me, punny title and all, is another startling success, infusing fresh vigor into everyday English.

Daniel Pinkwater
Lighthearted and funny...It's like Strunk and White combined with S. J. Perelman—none of whom would have had the slightest objection.
NY Times Book Review
Seattle Times
O'Conner's guidelines are helpful to anyone who puts pen, or word processor, to paper.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
So effortless to read...The back cover shows up before you've broken a sweat.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bless her. She's smart about the little things as well as the essentials....This isn't just nuts-and-bolts mechanics. It's the deft touch that makes craftsmen of carpenters and artists, sometimes, of workaday writers.
O'Conner's first book, Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, is a favorite reference in the KLIATT office, so I picked up Words Fail Me with enthusiasm. I am not disappointed, especially since this semester I am trying to help college students with their writing, and I see that O'Conner has pinpointed problems all writers face. Her humorous examples are welcome: e.g., quoting the dead-parrot sketch from Monty Python to illustrate "euphemism run amok." She makes an interesting point that at present writing abounds in our culture—think e-mail—yet we are not necessarily writing well. Her suggestions get to the center of typical problems writers have: identifying their audience, organizing their material, getting started, revising, and perhaps revising once more. We should all be students of writing, because it is such an important part of communicating in our society, and because most all writing could be improved. O'Conner's approach, friendly and helpful with specifics, is one students and teachers can use. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Harcourt/Harvest, 228p, bibliog, index, 21cm, 99-25610, $12.00. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
From the Publisher

"O'Conner uses her playful sense of humor to help us swallow with a laugh the rules that schoolmarms once forced down students' throats.-The New York Times Book Review
"O'Conner is one of those sneaky-good writers: You don't see the effort behind her smoothness."-Salon.com "Read this one from end to end....Imagine what the Congressional Record would be like if bureaucrats wrote that way."-The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Will delight the word lovers on your shopping list...Sassy." -Detroit News Free Press
"Remember Woe Is I? Well, Ms. O'Conner is back and she hasn't lost her touch. This book is worth the price just to read her chapter titles and headings."-Writers' Exchange
"Patricia T. O'Conner's Woe Is I and Words Fail Me are readable, sympathetic to the struggling writer and often just plain funny."-the Seattle Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547546872
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/7/2000
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 651,871
  • File size: 916 KB

Meet the Author

Patrcia T. O'Conner was an editor at the New York Times Book Review when she wrote Woe Is I. Her writing has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times and Newsweek. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, Stewart Kellerman.
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Table of Contents

  • IS THE EGG READY TO HATCH? Know Your Subject
  • PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER: The Organized Writer
    • POMPOUS CIRCUMSTANCES: Hold the Baloney
    • THE LIFE OF THE PARTY: Verbs That Zing
    • CALL WAITING: Putting the Subject on Hold
    • NOW WHERE WERE WE? A Time and a Place for Everything
    • THE "IT" PARADE: Pronoun Pileups
    • SMOTHERING HEIGHTS: Behavior Modification
    • TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS: Sentences That Make Sense
    • MADE FOR EACH OTHER: Well-Matched Sentences
    • GIVE ME A BREAK: Thinking in Paragraphs
    • THE SNAKE'S PROGRESS: Fear of Repetition
    • TRAINING WHEELS: Belaboring the Obvious
    • CRITIQUE OF POOR REASON: The Art of Making Sense
    • DOWN FOR THE COUNT: When the Numbers Don't Add Up
    • GRAMMAR MOSES: Thou Shalt Not Embarrass Thyself
    • Includes sections called An I for an I; Comma Sense; Taking Leave of
    • Your Tenses; Rules, Schmules; Spellbinding; and others
      • LOST HORIZON: What's the Point of View?
      • WIMPING OUT: The Backward Writer
      • PROMISES, PROMISES: If You Make Them, Keep Them
      • YOU GOT RHYTHM: Writing to the Beat
      • THE HUMAN COMEDY: What's So Funny?
      • I SECOND THAT EMOTION: Writing With Feeling
      • THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HONEST: Leveling With the Reader
      • ONCE AROUND THE BLOCK: What to Do When You're Stuck
      • DEBT BEFORE DISHONOR: How and What to Borrow
      • REVISE AND CONSENT: Getting to the Finish Line
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