How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One

by Stanley Fish
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Overview

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish

Some appreciate fine art; others appreciate fine wines. Stanley Fish appreciates fine sentences. The New York Times columnist and world-class professor has long been an aficionado of language: "I am always on the lookout for sentences that take your breath away, for sentences that make you say, 'Isn't that something?' or 'What a sentence!'" Like a seasoned sportscaster, Fish marvels at the adeptness of finely crafted sentences and breaks them down into digestible morsels, giving readers an instant play-by-play.

In this entertaining and erudite gem, Fish offers both sentence craft and sentence pleasure, skills invaluable to any writer (or reader). His vibrant analysis takes us on a literary tour of great writers throughout history—from William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Henry James to Martin Luther King Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Elmore Leonard. Indeed, How to Write a Sentence is both a spirited love letter to the written word and a key to understanding how great writing works; it is a book that will stand the test of time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061840548
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Pages: 165
Sales rank: 1,041,319
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has received many honors and awards, including being named the Chicagoan of the Year for Culture. He is the author of twelve books and is now a weekly columnist for the New York Times. He resides in Andes, New York; New York City; and Delray Beach, Florida; with his wife, Jane Tompkins.

What People are Saying About This

Roy Blount Jr.

“Like a long periodic sentence, this book rumbles along, gathers steam, shifts gears, and packs a wallop.”

Maria Popova

“How to Write a Sentence isn’t merely a prescriptive guide to the craft of writing but a rich and layered exploration of language as an evolving cultural organism. It belongs not on the shelf of your home library but in your brain’s most deep-seated amphibian sensemaking underbelly.”

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

“How to Write a Sentence is a must read for aspiring writers and anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of literature. If extraordinary sentences are like sports plays, Fish is the Vin Scully of great writing.”

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How to Write a Sentence 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
WTVCrimeDawg More than 1 year ago
The title and first chapter piqued my interest, so I bought the book and spent a weekend studying it from cover to cover. It is an easy read, well written, and full of great sentences. I liked Fish's emphasis on the mastery of a sentence to improve overall writing. First, you master form; then, content. I enjoyed the following chapters: The Subordinating Style, The Additive Style, First Sentences, and Last Sentences. However, the book promises more than it delivers. I felt unsatisfied at the end. Fish's "How to Write a Sentence" is nothing more than a collection of sentences that he likes. He has an affinity for sentence geekery, and this is part of his collection. Overall, there is value in reading the book. I would, however, wait until it goes in the bargain bin before you make the investment, since there are numerous other grammar and style books that will serve you better, including one that Fish critiques: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
Notyoda More than 1 year ago
I found this the best single book on writing I've read. That may be because I didn't treat it as a how-to but used his key sentences as models for myself and wrote pages of sentences for each model. Even made up models of my own to continue. Oddly, my writing improved.
Kooly More than 1 year ago
I expected information on how to write a sentence. All I got was what other people wrote a long-long time ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title belies the content. He should have titled it "I love sentences" or something similar. First, he criticizes traditional teachings of punctuation and grammar, not without some merit. Then he wanders off into LALA land without offering a comprehensible alternative. This is not a book of instruction; it seems to be more musings than anything. I got so bored with it I couldn't finish.
Doug_Pardee More than 1 year ago
Fish writes at length about the joys of sentences that are written at length. He celebrates the writers of times past who would write sentences with word counts in the triple digits, composed of numerous clauses and phrases, sometimes with myriad commas and sometimes with none (Gertrude Stein being a paragon of the latter), and revels in how each clause and phrase and word contributes to the aesthetics and timing and effect of the entirety of the sentence; perhaps you have noticed that this very sentence is an attempt -- if not necessarily a great attempt, as this kind of writing is something I rarely do (or, truth be told, never do) -- at an example of the type of writing which, clearly, Fish adores. I'm from the Strunk & White generation. I like my sentences to be simple and clear. Fish's treatise didn't convince me otherwise, and I don't think it even tried. Those who prefer the prolix style of Henry James will find Fish a kindred spirit, but I'm not sure that they'll really learn much. By the way, this is a fairly short book: 125 pages in NOOKbook form, almost 15 of which are front and back matter.
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Steve1469 More than 1 year ago
Having written a few pieces, I'm often on the lookout for ways to improve. So this seemed to be a natural. I was disappointed. Rather than "How to write a sentence" a better title would be "Sentences I have liked." I found it a bit pompous. The initial promise wasn't borne out in later chapters. After reading the book, I've stopped reading his columns in the New York Times. I think I'll stick with Strunk and White for instruction.
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