Book Review: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

 In Literature

 

I came across this book after being assigned to read an excerpt from it by my Advanced Composition professor. It’s all about how to write sentences that best tailor to your reader. I could tell right away that the author really knew what she was talking about, and I really appreciated her writing style. I decided I had to read the whole thing, and now, I can confidently say that it was time well-spent.

I’m an aspiring novelist who is constantly writing, whether it be for class or in my free time, and I am very particular about how I weave words together. I can’t seem to write a single sentence without feeling it needs to be better somehow, even though I often can’t even figure out the problem. This leads to me spending absurd amounts of time obsessing over individual sentences, and making very slow progress in my work. That’s why this book was right up my alley; I will take any help I can get on improving my technique.

Ultimately, Casagrande wants to help writers make informed decisions about their style. She is not trying to perpetuate a single style that she happens to like. She breaks down various writing elements to describe their effect on the reader and then acknowledges that, though she has her preferences, it’s up to us to decide how to use them. For example, she goes on a brief comedic rant about how she loathes semicolons, but still explains the best ways to use them.

I can safely say that my writing process has improved after reading this; I am more conscious of my choices and I have new things to look for when I get stuck. She also helped me identify my biggest problem: I make my sentences too complicated. I’m always mashing together too many ideas and trying to add too many complex turns of phrase. I would do this solely to try and sound fancy, but it made my writing hard to follow. Now, thanks to this book, I can start to improve.

On a surface level, this is not the most entertaining book. At times, it was nearly indiscernible from reading a textbook: a lot of boring vocabulary gets thrown around, there’s a table every few chapters, and there is even an appendix at the end explaining the basics of English grammar. However, I was constantly excited over how I could apply what I learned in my own work, so it never felt like a chore to read. It only took me 3 days to finish the book and I enjoyed every second (except maybe Chapter 3. Even the author admits that was pretty mundane).

I also have to commend Casagrande for filling every page with such personality. The text feels very conversational due to lots of informal language and her tendency to ask questions, as if she were a really chill professor in the room with me going over the material. She also has very animated, humorous reactions to everything which kept me entertained. I’m sure that if I were to ever meet her, I’d gladly listen to her talk about grammar all day.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting to take their writing to the next level.

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