In February, at Intelligent Content 2013, I attended Marcia Riefer Johnston’s workshop on writing well. A few minutes in, I looked around and thought, My people!
Picture me and 20 other word geeks gleefully picking apart prose from various websites over an hour and a half. Eliminating “is”es and activating passive constructions. It was loads of fun.
So when Marcia emailed to ask if I’d like an advance copy of her book Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) (website), of course I said yes. The plan was for me to publish a review in April. (Hmm. Better late than never?)
Are you a novice writer looking for a reference manual to teach you the basics of good writing? This isn’t it. (Allow me to recommend Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and my favorite online copywriting reference, The Yahoo! Style Guide.)
Instead, Word Up! is a rollicking insider’s tour of the English language. Marcia’s your guide, it’s after hours, and she has the keys to all the back rooms. She’s going to show you the nitty-gritty of what makes great language work: why “to be” verbs bog down your writing, and how meter can spice it up. She’ll make you work a bit: there’s no elevator to the top floor, where the grammarians lounge and discuss the difference between form-class and structure-class words. You’ll have to take the stairs.
But boy, is it worth it. If you love words and you’re not scared off by a mind-bending but well explained summary of the finer points of grammar, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this book. It’s clear that Marcia enjoyed writing it—heck, she even has fun with the glossary, for Pete’s sake. This woman is crazy!
Oh, who am I kidding, so am I. Crazy about words. To shamelessly steal Marcia’s metaphor, we’re just otters frolicking in the stream of language.
Sure, Word Up! will help you improve your writing. But crucially, you’ll have tons of fun doing it.