February 6, 2008

Review: Words Fail Me

Posted in Book Review at 7:00 am by Matt Porter

(This is my first book review of 2008. My goal for the year is 50 books; I have a few more finished, and hope to have their reviews up within the next week or so.)

WordsFailMePatricia T. O’Conner’s Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing is a thoroughly enjoyable read, masterfully blending clear instruction and delightful humor. O’Conner manages to diagnose and treat a comprehensive list of writing ills without becoming pedantic or tiresome. Writers of any proficiency will benefit from this book.

O’Connor accomplishes much in a surprisingly short space; the book’s 221 pages are divided among 30 different topics. Efficient writing moves things along quickly, but the style is anything but sparse. Each chapter contains many examples, drawn from both original material and well-known authors. A subtle sense of humor pervades the text. Each topic is thoroughly covered, without focusing on any one writing style. The result is an enjoyable series of lessons benefiting writers in any field.

The topics covered range from preparation for writing to basic grammar rules. Readers with good writing and grammar skills should move quickly through the book, while still finding much to challenge them. Those less familiar with the basics may need to reread some chapters until they thoroughly grasp the topics.

Complaints abound about the sad state of writing in our communication-saturated culture. Words Fail Me does an admirable job of communicating the need for clear writing, as well as showing writers how to improve. This book would be an excellent addition to any writer’s collection.


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