How to Write a Sentence : and How to Read One, Paperback Book

How to Write a Sentence : and How to Read One Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


If you know sentences, you know everything. Good sentences promise nothing less than lessons and practice in the organization of the world.

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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Writing & editing guides
  • ISBN: 9780061840531

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Ostensibly, this is a book about how to craft an effective sentence. But it is also a celebration of those who have done it really well. Much of the book consists of examples by writers who perfected the art of constructing sentences, and by so doing helped us to perceive reality more beautifully, or ironically, or succinctly, or evocatively, than we ever would have been able to do on our own.Through numerous examples, Professor Fish demonstrates the elements of good writing: What characteristics of sentences make us want to know more of the story? How do we write such sentences? How can we combine words to reflect a certain perspective, advance a point of view, or convey a particular emotion?To my mind, the best example in the book is provided by an extensive quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s <em>Letter From A Birmingham Jail</em> (1963). In a famous passage, the late Dr. King explained why blacks had run out of patience waiting for civil rights. He anguished over the impossibility of explaining to a six-year-old child why the world, for blacks, was like it was, and he lamented seeing “the depressing clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky….” In this short and incredibly masterful phrase, Dr. King packed in years of history; textured it with analysis; and freighted it with emotion. One can appreciate how and why he moved so many. <strong>Evaluation:</strong> Fish’s essay provides a lovely, short explication and appreciation of good writing, both for those who want to be counted among adept wordsmiths, and for those simply interested in appreciating the prowess of others.