First You Write a Sentence: The Elements of Reading, Writing . . . and Life (Paperback)
“Do you want to write clearer, livelier prose? This witty primer will help.” —The New York Times Book Review
An exploration of how the most ordinary words can be turned into verbal constellations of extraordinary grace through the art of building sentences
The sentence is the common ground where every writer walks. A good sentence can be written (and read) by anyone if we simply give it the gift of our time, and it is as close as most of us will get to making something truly beautiful. Using minimal technical terms and sources ranging from the Bible and Shakespeare to George Orwell and Maggie Nelson, as well as scientific studies of what can best fire the reader's mind, author Joe Moran shows how we can all write in a way that is clear, compelling and alive.
Whether dealing with finding the ideal word, building a sentence, or constructing a paragraph, First You Write a Sentence informs by light example: much richer than a style guide, it can be read not only for instruction but for pleasure and delight. And along the way, it shows how good writing can help us notice the world, make ourselves known to others, and live more meaningful lives. It's an elegant gem in praise of the English sentence.
About the Author
Joe Moran is a professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University.
“Do you want to write clearer, livelier prose? This witty primer will help. . . . Humane and witty . . . At the calm heart of Moran’s rhetorically affable book is an idea of adroit aplomb. . . . As a primer in generous and lively writing, First You Write a Sentence is blithe and convincing.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Thoughtful reflections on how to write well . . . Moran is a thoroughly sane, thoughtful commentator.”
—The Guardian (Book of the Week)
“Joe Moran is a wonderfully sharp writer, calm, precise, and quietly comical. . . . Moran’s own sentences are perfect advertisements for the aims they espouse. . . . He writes with a playful clarity that makes First You Write a Sentence a joy to read.”
—The Mail on Sunday (London)
“Splendid . . . Moran writes fluidly and elegantly, offering practical advice on giving one’s writing texture and verve.”
“[An] elegant and winding book-length love letter . . . [First You Write a Sentence] is expansive, diving into myriad topics related to sentence composition and efficacy, and Moran’s infatuation endures through it all. Writers and linguists have much to gain from Moran’s manic and probing research, but it’s Moran’s enthusiasm for the vitality of language that will engage any and all readers.”
“Heartfelt . . . [Moran] provides many pieces of useful advice [and] makes persuasive arguments for the virtues of succinct, plain writing and for a more ornate style without definitively favoring either—the key is to be adept at whichever is chosen. . . . Anyone who has waxed poetic about good writing will enjoy parts of Moran’s book.”
“It takes chutzpah to write a book about writing sentences. Between every full stop lies the potential to fail by your own standards, as countless style guide writers have done before. But Joe Moran has a perfect ear for English. First You Write a Sentence is an edifying joy.”
—Lynne Murphy, author of The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English
“Thoughtful, engaging, and lively exposé of the quirks and beauties of the full sentence . . . It’s a style guide by stealth: when you’ve read it, you realize you’ve changed your attitude to writing (and reading).”
—John Simpson, former chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and author of The Word Detective
“What a lovely thing this is: a book that delights in the sheer textural joy of good sentences. Joe Moran has written a book about writing that is itself a collection of sentences to inspire, divert, and console. Any writer should read it, if only to be reminded how crazily hard it is to write words ‘in such a way that they can be deciphered in your absence.’”
—Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork and First Bite