In a nutshell:
Longtime writer and editor Harold Evans offers lessons to improve writing.
“We are more likely to understand the argument if we know where we are heading.”
“Anything that goes wrong will always be wordier than anything that goes right.”
Why I chose it:
I’m always looking to improve my writing.
In the first few pages of this book the author speaks well of both Churchill (racist) and Kissinger (war criminal), so I did have a little trouble moving past that. I was expecting something closer to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’; instead it is closer to a good text one might find in an introductory journalism or creative writing course at University. That is, it is well-written and helpful but dry (ironic, eh?) and repetitive.
Nearly every section comes down to editing; specifically to cutting words so one communicates in the simplest way. And that is solid advice! It’s just … there are only so many ways once can reiterate the same point.
Though, to his credit, Evans does find many ways to do just that. Most chapters include sample text that he then edits to be easier to read or straightforward. I could see those samples being helpful in a classroom: offer the originals to students and have them edit them down and compare to Evans’s edits. Some chapters also include lists of phrases that are redundant, or words that are misused, which makes the book worth keeping around. I’ll add it to my writing reference stack, and look at it occasionally.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it for the reference value.