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The Sense of Style

The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

Steven Pinker

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Beschreibung

"Charming and erudite," from the author of Enlightenment Now, "The wit and insight and clarity he brings . . . is what makes this book such a gem." -Time.com

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing-and why should we care? From the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now.

In this entertaining and eminently practical book, the cognitive scientist, dictionary consultant, and New York Times-bestselling author Steven Pinker rethinks the usage guide for the twenty-first century. Using examples of great and gruesome modern prose while avoiding the scolding tone and Spartan tastes of the classic manuals, he shows how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right. The Sense of Style is for writers of all kinds, and for readers who are interested in letters and literature and are curious about the ways in which the sciences of mind can illuminate how language works at its best.

Praise for The Sense of Style
"[The Sense of Style] is more contemporary and comprehensive than "The Elements of Style," illustrated with comic strips and cartoons and lots of examples of comically bad writing. [Pinker's] voice is calm, reasonable, benign, and you can easily see why he's one of Harvard's most popular lecturers."
-The New York Times

"Pinker's linguistical learning...is considerable. His knowledge of grammar is extensive and runs deep. He also takes a scarcely hidden delight in exploding tradition. He describes his own temperament as "both logical and rebellious." Few things give him more pleasure than popping the buttons off what he takes to be stuffed shirts."
-The Wall Street Journal

"[W]hile The Sense of Style is very much a practical guide to clear and compelling writing, it's also far more.... In the end, Pinker's formula for good writing is pretty basic: write clearly, try to follow the rules most of the time-but only the when they make sense. It's neither rocket science nor brain surgery. But the wit and insight and clarity he brings to that simple formula is what makes this book such a gem."
-Time.com

"Erudite and witty... With its wealth of helpful information and its accessible approach, The Sense of Style is a worthy addition to even the most overburdened shelf of style manuals."
-Shelf Awareness

"Forget Strunk and White's rules-cognitive science is a surer basis for clear and cogent writing, according to this iconoclastic guide from bestselling Harvard psycholinguist Pinker... Every writer can profit from-and every writer can enjoy-Pinker's analysis of the ways in which skillfully chosen words engage the mind."
-Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Yet another how-to book on writing? Indeed, but this is one of the best to come along in many years, a model of intelligent signposting and syntactical comportment...Pinker's vade mecum is a worthy addition to any writer's library."
-Kirkus Reviews

"In this witty and practical book on the art of writing, Pinker applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the crafting of clear, elegant prose: #requiredreading."
-Publishers Weekly, PW pick Fall 2014 Announcements

"Who better than a best-selling linguist and cognitive scientist to craft a style guide showing us how to use language more effectively?"
-Library Journal

"[A] dense, fascinating analysis of the many ways communication can be stymied by word choice, placement, stress, and the like. [Pinker's] explanations run rich and deep, complemented by lists, cartoons, charts on diagramming sentences, and more."
-Booklist

"This book is a graceful and clear smackdown to the notion that English is going to the proverbial dogs. Pinker has written the Strunk & White for a new century while continuing to discourage baseless notions such as that the old slogan should have been 'Winston tastes good AS a cigarette should.'"
-John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and The Power of Babel

"Great stuff! Only Steven Pinker could have written this marvelous book, and thank heaven he has. 'Good writing can flip the way the world is perceived,' he writes, and The Sense of Style will flip the way you think about good writing. Pinker's curiosity and delight illuminate every page, and when he says style can make the world a better place, we believe him."
-Patricia T. O'Conner, author of Woe Is I and, with Stewart Kellerman, Origins of the Specious

Steven Pinker, geboren 1954, studierte Psychologie in Montreal und an der Harvard University. 20 Jahre lange lehrte er am Department of Brain and Cognitive Science am MIT in Boston und ist seit 2003 Professor für Psychologie an der Harvard University. Seine Forschungen beschäftigen sich mit Sprache und Denken, außerdem schreibt er regelmäßig für die "New York Times", "Time" und "The New Republic". Sein Werk ist mit zahlreichen Preisen ausgezeichnet worden.

Produktdetails

Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 368
Erscheinungsdatum 22.09.2015
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-14-312779-6
Verlag Penguin LCC US
Maße (L/B/H) 20,3/13,7/2,5 cm
Gewicht 312 g
Verkaufsrang 54498

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  • Prologue

    I love style manuals. Ever since I was assigned Strunk and White's The Elements of Style in an introductory psychology course, the writing guide has been among my favorite literary genres. It's not just that I welcome advice on the lifelong challenge of perfecting the craft of writing. It's also that credible guidance on writing must itself be well written, and the best of the manuals are paragons of their own advice. William Strunk's course notes on writing, which his student E. B. White turned into their famous little book, was studded with gems of self-exemplification such as "Write with nouns and verbs," "Put the emphatic words of a sentence at the end," and best of all, his prime directive, "Omit needless words." Many eminent stylists have applied their gifts to explaining the art, including Kingsley Amis, Jacques Barzun, Ambrose Bierce, Bill Bryson, Robert Graves, Tracy Kidder, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, F. L. Lucas, George Orwell, William Safire, and of course White himself, the beloved author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. Here is the great essayist reminiscing about his teacher:

    I like to read style manuals for another reason, the one that sends botanists to the garden and chemists to the kitchen: it's a practical application of our science. I am a psycholinguist and a cognitive scientist, and what is style, after all, but the effective use of words to engage the human mind? It's all the more captivating to someone who seeks to explain these fields to a wide readership. I think about how language works so that I can best explain how language works.

    But my professional acquaintance with language has led me to read the traditional manuals with a growing sense of unease. Strunk and White, for all their intuitive feel for style, had a tenuous grasp of grammar.2 They misdefined terms such as phrase, participle, and relative clause, and in steering their readers away from passive verbs and toward active transitive ones they botched their examples of both. There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground, for instance, is not in the passive voice, nor does The cock's crow came with dawn contain a transitive verb. Lacking the tools to analyze language, they often struggled when turning their intuitions into advice, vainly appealing to the writer's "ear." And they did not seem to realize that some of the advice contradicted itself: "Many a tame sentence . . . can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice" uses the passive voice to warn against the passive voice. George Orwell, in his vaunted "Politics and the English Language," fell into the same trap when, without irony, he derided prose in which "the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active."3

    Self-contradiction aside, we now know that telling writers to avoid the passive is bad advice. Linguistic research has shown that the passive construction has a number of indispensable functions because of the way it engages a reader's attention and memory. A skilled writer should know what those functions are and push back against copy editors who, under the influence of grammatically naïve style guides, blue-pencil every passive construction they spot into an active one.

    Style manuals that are innocent of linguistics also are crippled in dealing with the aspect of writing that evokes the most emotion: correct and incorrect usage. Many style manuals treat traditional rules of usage the way fundamentalists treat the Ten Commandments: as unerring laws chiseled in sapphire for mortals to obey or risk eternal damnation. But skeptics and freethinkers who probe the history of these rules have found that they belong to an oral tradition of folklore and myth. For many reasons, manuals that are credulous about the inerrancy of the traditional rules don't serve writers well. Although some of the rules can make prose better, many of them make it worse, and writers are better off flouting