Dynamist Blog

Artful Sentences

A delightful surprise in the mail: the new book Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, by Virginia Tufte (mother of Edward R. Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information).

"It is syntax that gives words the power to relate to each other in a sequence, to create rhythms andn emphasis, to carry meaning--of whatever kind--as well as glow individually in just the right stuff," writes Tufte. She has collected hundreds of sentences to illustrate how effective writers use specific techniques to create desired effects. She has a whole chapter on appositives and another on parallelism. And I learned what to call one of my favorites: asyndeton, which means omitting conjunctions. (As the previous sentence illustrates, I also like starting sentences with conjunctions, something forbidden by elementary school teachers. They have apparently never read the Hebrew scriptures, where nearly every sentence starts with And.)

The book is delightful on its own merits. But I also like it because it includes four examples from The Substance of Style.

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