The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker

“And we can remind ourselves of the reasons to strive for good style: to enhance the spread of ideas, to exemplify attention to detail, and to add to the beauty of the world.”

I spend a ridiculous, remarkable amount of time thinking about writing. When I read books, I try to pick apart how they work. There’s a stack of twelve writing style guides on my desk at home and two more on my desk at work. Somewhere along the way, I tricked somebody into thinking I knew what I was talking about with all this grammar stuff, and now they pay me to tell other people about it. I know twenty five is too young to wax poetic about my life’s work or some greater purpose, but when we reminisce about the good old days, I’m fairly sure those days will be book clubs, writing workshops, and shut-in Sunday nights with a cup of tea and a sleeping cat.

You can see, then, why I would read a style guide for Bookstravaganza. That quote up there: that’s exactly what style does. It’s important, because the way that you use words actually does stuff in the brain of your reader, and it isn’t very often that you take the time to think about it.

Steven Pinker is brilliant – if you haven’t read him, you should. I was introduced to his work  a couple of years ago, when his book about the decline of violence came out, during a talk at the Festival of Ideas where my then-boyfriend fanboyed hard. He’s an engaging speaker, who somehow translates his clear and engaging spoken voice to the page. Well, not “somehow.” If you read this, you’ll understand what I mean by that. I tell people all the time that writing is a science and an art, and Pinker (an honest-to-goodness scientist) is better credentialed than me to prove that. And prove it he does. While I don’t think many people read style guides for pleasure (whatever, I’m not weird), I would recommend this book for pleasure reading. Steven Pinker is just that good.

Books read: 32


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