The Reader Over Your Shoulder
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“The best book on writing ever published” (Patricia T. O’Conner, author of Woe Is I).
When Robert Graves and Alan Hodge decided to collaborate on this manual for writers, the world was in total upheaval. Graves had fled Majorca three years earlier at the start of the Spanish Civil War, and as they labored over their new project, they witnessed the fall of France and the evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk. Soon the horror of World War II would reach British soil as well, as the Luftwaffe began bombing London in an effort to destroy the resolve of the English people.
Graves and Hodge believed that at a time when their whole world was falling apart, the survival of English prose sentences—of writing that was clear, concise, and intelligible—had become paramount if hope were going to outlive the onslaught. They came up with forty-one principles for writing, the majority devoted to clarity, the remainder to grace of expression. They studied the prose of a wide range of noted authors and leaders, finding much room for improvement. Successful communication could mean the difference between war and peace, life and death, and they were determined to contribute to its survival. The importance of good writing continues today, as obfuscation, propaganda, manipulative language, and sloppy standards are all too common—and this classic guide is just as useful and important as ever.
Note: This edition restores the full, original 1943 text.
“To see what really expert mavens can do in applying their rule-based expertise to clearing up bad prose, get hold of a copy of The Reader Over Your Shoulder.” —The Atlantic