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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Oxford Guide to Writing: A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students ~Book Review


1799 Hetsch Junges Maedchen anagoria.JPGLately I was debating whether or not I should reveal my favourite secret writing tip for my next blog post...well, this isn't it, (I'm still wondering if I should reveal my secret!) but don't fret, until I finally weaken and spill the beans, for now I shall share with you what I believe is one of the best aids of the trade.  Okay, so I've already published it as a book review, but for those of you who may have missed it:

The Oxford Guide to Writing: A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students by Thomas S. Kane   Hardcover: 848 pages    Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 3, 1983)   ISBN: 9780195032451

(Image: Young girl in morning dress, speculating sitting at a table by Philipp Friedrich von Hetsch, 1758-1839.)


For college students?  This is also for serious writers.

 Many have asked, "How do you learn how to write? Properly, that is?" By this they mean: how does one become a skilled artist of the craft, melding words into classic pieces of prose, fiction, non-fiction, or whatever the specific genre of choice might be. Practise, time, patience are the customary answers, yet the `how' of writing, the basic nuts and bolts are often elusive. Unless you have a firm grasp of the tools available, that is, the art of rhetoric, the development of your own style will flounder. What is rhetoric? It is the ability to write or speak persuasively and effectively, to use language gracefully and with maximum impact. Unfortunately, scuzzy politicians and their empty speeches have maligned the word `rhetoric', but the `Oxford Guide' admirably shows that wonders can be done with the English language with regards to writing when handled by an artist.

This book is an invaluable toolkit for the serious writer who wishes to develop their skills. I stumbled upon it while browsing the library shelves in college and immediately ordered my own copy. Do not be fooled by the title: this is not just for college students! This book continues to serve me well. Yes, it is a big tome, but the chapters and their various sections are beautifully expressed, enjoyable, concise, and most important of all, they are to the point. Sometimes they are quite humorous. Each section ranges from only a few sentences to a paragraph or a page. It is possible to read just a few pages a day with maximum benefit. While there is great attention given to writing essays and the research process for college purposes, the fiction writer will also profit greatly.

At first, the chapters sound horribly dull and technical as you skim through the table of contents, but it is surprising how interesting they are, filled with examples from the publications of famous writers, and other easy to understand diagrams and exercises.

 If you are already an accomplished author, this book is still for you, revision never goes astray. Writing is an ongoing learning process, you may be surprised at how your style may evolve after reading this handbook. You don't have to do the writing exercises if you don't want to, it is amazing the information you absorb, you may be forgiven if you skip them.

 On the other hand, if you are a teacher, this book gives you ample ammunition at the end of each chapter for creative writing assignments.

 To university students, this book is a `must-have', particularly if you are not studying English as a major or minor. Often you will be thrown into the deep end at college and be expected to know how to write essays and term papers on an academic level. Perhaps you may be offered an extra course to help brush up your writing skills for the expected requirements, but be prepared to develop these skills on your own. Let the `Oxford Guide' be your writing mentor.

The amount of information compiled is unbelievable. In addition to a handy reference index in the front of the hard cover for important chapters, there are full indexes in the back, including one for the authors mentioned and the examples taken from their works, not to mention a nifty `Correction Symbols' key inside the back cover explaining all the red ink marks your professor or publishing editor may scrawl over your work during the correction process.

This is an extremely useful book, the only information that is lacking concerns the Internet as a research tool since the `Oxford Guide' was published in the days before the World Wide Web. To conclude, I shall let the Table of Contents speak for itself and recommend that every serious writer whether they be a student, a poet, essayist or novelist, invest in a copy.  It is out of print, but if you take the time to hunt around for a copy, you will be glad that you did.

Introduction
Chapter 1: Truths and Misconceptions about Writing
You Can Learn to Write
Writing is Worth Learning
Good Prose is Recognizable
Correctness Is Not the Essence of Good Writing
Writing Is Different from Talking
Writing Is More Than Simply Finding Words to Fit Ideas
Everybody Has Things to Say

Chapter 2: Basic Considerations: Purpose
Introduction
Subject
Reader
Purpose and Types of Prose

Chapter 3: Basic Considerations: Strategy and Style
Style

Chapter 4: Basic Considerations: Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics
Grammar
Usage
Mechanics
Grammar, Usage, and Style

Part One-The Writing Process
Introduction

Chapter 5: Invention: Gathering
The Commonplace book
The Journal

Chapter 6: Invention: Exploring Ideas
Free Writing
The Analytical Approach
Conclusion

Chapter 7: Outlining
Introduction
The Formal Outline
The Scratch Outline
A Simple Outline
From an Outline Essay

Chapter 8: Drafting and Revising
Drafting
Revising
Final Copy
Conclusion

Part Two-The Essay

Chapter 9: Structure of the Essay: Beginning
Introduction
Announcing the Subject
Limiting the Subject
Indicating the Plan of the Essay
Interesting the Reader
A Word about Titles
Conclusion

Chapter 10: Structure of the Essay: Closing
Summary and Conclusion
Termination
Conclusion

Chapter 11: Structure of the Essay: Organizing the Middle
Signposts
Inter-Paragraph Transitions

Chapter 12: Tight and Loose Organization
Introduction
Tight Organization
Loose Organization

Chapter 13: Point of View, Persona, and Tone in the Essay
Point of View
Persona
Tone

Part Three- The Expository Paragraph
Introduction

Section I - Basic Structure

Chapter 14: The Sentence in the Paragraph

Introduction
The Topic Sentence
Sentences as Analytical Elements

Chapter 15: Paragraph Unity
Introduction
Coherence
Paragraph Flow

Section II- Methods of Development

Chapter 16: Paragraph Development: Illustration

Introduction
Illustration

Chapter 17: Paragraph Development: Restatement
Simple Restatement
Negative-Positive Restatement
Specification

Chapter 18: Paragraph Development: Comparison and Contrast
Focusing a Comparison or Contrast
Organizing a Comparison or Contrast
Developing the Comparison or Contrast
Conclusion

Chapter 19: Paragraph Development: Analogy
Introduction
Analogy as Clarification
Analogy as Persuasion
Conclusion

Chapter 20: Paragraph Development: Cause and Effect
Cause
Effects
Cause and Effects

Chapter 21: Paragraph Development: Definition
Kinds of Definition
Modes of Defining

Chapter 22: Paragraph Development: Analysis or Classification
Analysis of Abstractions
Analysis of a Process

Chapter 23: Paragraph Development: Qualification
Section III- Variations and Complexities

Chapter 24: Variations in the Topic Sentence and in Paragraph Unity
Delaying the Topic Sentence
Implying the Topic Sentence
Figurative Unity

Chapter 25: Paragraph Patterns
Introduction
The Lineal Paragraph
The Ramifying Paragraph
The Circular Paragraph
The Loose Paragraph

Chapter 26: Sentence Patterns in the Paragraph
Introduction
Similarity in sentence Pattern
Variety in Sentence Structure
Conclusion

Part Four - The Sentence
Introduction

Section I- The Grammatical Types of Sentences

Chapter 27: The Simple Sentence

Introduction
The Awkward Simple Sentence
The Effective Simple Sentence

Chapter 28: The Compound Sentence
Awkward Coordination
Overcoordination
Use Parataxis

Chapter 29: The Complex Sentence
Subordinate Ideas of Lesser Importance
Do Not Subordinate Ideas of Primary Importance
Reduce Subordination to the Briefest Form that Clarity Requires
Arrange Subordinate Constructions in Natural Order if Possible
The Compound-Complex Sentence

Chapter 30: The Fragment
The Detached Adverbial Clause
The Detached Participle
The Detached Adjectival Clause
The Verbless Statement

Section II - Sentence Style

Chapter 31: The serial Sentence

Introduction
The Segregating Style
The Freight-Train Sentence
The Cumulative Sentence

Chapter 32: Parallel and Balanced SentencesIntroduction
The Parallel Sentence
The Balanced Sentence
Summary

Chapter 33: Hierarchic Structure
Introduction
The Loose Sentence
The Periodic Sentence
The Convoluted Sentence
The Centered Sentence

Chapter 34: Sentence Patterns: Summary

Chapter 35: Concision in the Sentence
Introduction
Use Single Adverb or Adjective
Avoid Awkward Anticipatory Constructions
Use Colon or Dash
Use Ellipsis
Use Parallelism
Use Participles
Use Predicate Adjectives
Do Not Waste the Subject, Verb and Object

Chapter 36: The Emphatic Sentence
Introduction
Announcement
Balance
The Fragment
The Imperative Sentence
The Interrupted Sentence
The Inverted Sentence
Negative-Positive Restatement
The Periodic Sentence
The Rhetorical Sentence
Rhythm and Rhyme
The Short Sentence

Chapter 37: Emphasis within the Sentence
Adjectives
Ellipsis
Isolation
Mechanical Emphasis
Polysyndeton and Asyndeton
Position
Repetition

Chapter 38: Variety in Sentence
Introduction
Vary Length and Pattern
Fragments
Rhetorical Questions
Varied Openings
Interrupted Movement

Chapter 39: Rhythm in the Sentence
Introduction
Effective Rhythm
Awkward Rhythm
Metrical Runs
Rhythmic Breaks
Mimetic Rhythm
Rhyme
Summary

Part Five- Diction
Introduction

Section I .- The Question of Meaning

Chapter 40: Meaning

Words Are Not Endowed with Fixed `Proper' Meanings
Denotation and Connotation
Levels of Usage
Telic Modes of Meaning
Conclusion

Section II -Problems of Diction

Chapter 41: Wrong Words

Introduction
Too Abstract
Ambiguity
Barbarism
Clarity
Cliché
Colloquialism
Connotation
Denotation
Awkward Figure of Speech
Too General
False Hyperbole
Wrong Idiom
Jargon
Meaning?
Pretentious Diction
Repetitiousness
Awkward Sound

Chapter 42: Unnecessary Words
Introduction
Overlong Connective
Unnecessary Definition
Distinction without Difference
Word Is Too General
Obvious by Implication
Wordy Modification
Wordy Passive
Overqualification
Redundancy
Scaffolding
Undeveloped Ideas
Too Many Verbs

Section III - Figurative and Unusual Diction

Chapter 43: Figurative Language

Introduction
Similes
Metaphor
Personification
Allusions
Irony
Overstatement and Understatement
Puns
Zeugma
Imagery

Chapter 44: Unusual Words and Collocations
Introduction
Unusual Words
Unusual Collocations

Section IV - Improving Your Vocabulary

Chapter 45: Dictionaries and Thesauri

Introduction
General Dictionaries
Special Dictionaries: Thesauri

Part Six- Description and Narration

Chapter 46: Description
Introduction
Objective Description
Subjective Description
Process Description

Chapter 47: Narration
Introduction
Organizing a Narrative
Meaning of a Narrative
Point of View and Tone in a Narrative

Part Seven - Persuasion

Introduction
The Nature of Persuasion
Kinds of Persuasion

Chapter 48: Argument
Introduction
Deductive Argument
Induction
Refutation and Concession
Composing an Argument

Chapter 49: Persuasion: Nonrational Modes
Introduction
Satire
Eloquence
Pathos
Ethos, Style, and the Audience
Emotional Fallacies
Table of Fallacies

Part Eight - The Research Paper and the Discussion Answer

Chapter 50: Gathering, Quoting, and Citing Information
Introduction
Using the Library
Taking Notes
Incorporating Notes into Your Paper
Footnotes
The Bibliography

Chapter 51: A Sample Research Project
Choosing a Topic
Looking for Sources
Organizing Your Notes
Writing the Paper

Chapter 52: Answering Discussion Questions

Part Nine- Punctuation

Introduction
The Purpose of Punctuation
`Rules' of Punctuation
The Two Categories of Punctuation

Chapter 53: Stops

The Period
The Question Mark
The Exclamation Point
The Colon
The Semicolon
The Comma
The Dash

Chapter 54: The Other Marks
The Apostrophe
The Quotation Mark
The Hyphen
Parentheses
Brackets
The Ellipsis
Diacritics
Underlining
Capitalization

Reference Grammar

Reference Grammar Contents
Introduction

Parts of Speech: Verbs, Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Interjections

The Grammar of the Sentence
Definitions, Subjects, Complements, Objects of Propositions, Adjectivals, Adverbials, Absolutes, Murky Modifiers, Problems in Agreement



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