Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing

Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing

by Constance Hale


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A writing handbook that celebrates the infinite pizzazz of verbs.

Writers know it instinctively: Verbs make a sentence zing. Grammar gurus agree: Drama in writing emerges from the interplay of a subject (noun) and a predicate (verb). Constance Hale, the best-selling author of Sin and Syntax, zooms in on the colorful world of verbs. Synthesizing the pedagogical and the popular, the scholarly and the scandalous, Hale combines the wit of Bill Bryson with the practical wisdom of William Zinsser. She marches through linguistic history to paint a layered picture of our language—from before it really existed to the quirky usages we see online today. She warns about habits to avoid and inspires with samples of brilliant writing. A veteran teacher, Hale gives writing prompts along the way, helping readers “try, do, write, play.” Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch guides us to more powerful writing by demonstrating how to use great verbs with style.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393081169
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/15/2012
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Constance Hale is the author of Wired Style and Sin and Syntax. She has taught at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and UC Berkeley Extension. She is based in San Francisco, California.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Power and Pizzazz of Verbs 9

1 Me Tarzan, You Jane: The world before verbs 23

2 Up! Cup! Tadatz! Our first sentences 42

3 Bastard Verbs: A new angle on the Angles 63

4 Grammar Wars: The tension between chaos and control 83

5 I Came, I Saw, I Conquered: The dynamics of verbs 104

6 Verb Tenses: A rose is a rose is a rose. Until it dies. Then it was a rose 127

7 Passive Restraint: Understanding the voice of verbs 151

8 Be There or Be Square: Time to master moods 174

9 Predicate Etiquette: Making the back end of a sentence behave 193

10 Verbal Dexterity: Playing with participles and other cross-dressers 219

11 Two-Stroke Engines: Pair a verb with a particle and-presto! 242

12 Headache Verbs: Odd usages and other sources of confusion 260

Epilogue: Got Style? 286

Appendix 1 Chomp-or, um, Chomsky-on this 297

Appendix 2 Each of these cases are complicated. Is complicated? 300

Appendix 3 When it comes to dictionaries, be polygamous 303

Appendix 4 Those sneaky irregular verbs 307

Appendix 5 Phrasal verbs: What's up, what's down 314

Appendix 6 More migraines 325

Notes 335

Selected Bibliography 353

Acknowledgments 363

Permissions 369

Index 371

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