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The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century [Format Kindle]

Steven Pinker
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Revue de presse

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.”
“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.”
“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

Présentation de l'éditeur

Bad writing can't be blamed on the Internet, or on 'the kids today'. Good writing has always been hard: a performance requiring pretense, empathy, and a drive for coherence. In The Sense of Style, cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker uses the latest scientific insights to bring us a style and usage guide for the 21st century. What do skilful writers know about the link between syntax and ideas? How can we overcome the Curse of Knowledge, the difficulty in imagining what it's like not to know something we do? And can we distinguish the myths and superstitions from rules that enhance clarity and grace? As Pinker shows, everyone can improve their mastery of writing and their appreciation of the art (yes, 'their').

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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superbe! 29 octobre 2014
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Somewhere between Strunk & White and Kernighan and Ritchie. A modern style manner where grammar is treated as a mechanism to be understood rather than obeyed.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Ca donne envie d'être anglophone.... 13 janvier 2015
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Jste pour pouvoir tout comprendre. Ce livre ne sera jamais traduit, car il ne peut pas l'être. Pinker est comme toujours fulgurant. Dommage que nous n'ayons pas d'auteur d'essai français du meme niveau...
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  120 commentaires
107 internautes sur 117 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A style manual for the 21st century 30 septembre 2014
Par Genevieve DeGuzman - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle
Heads-up, editors. In The Sense of Style, author Steven Pinker challenges every authoritarian grammarian and language purist who has held sway over the rules of the English language with their dogmatic style books.

A psycholinguist by profession, Pinker is a scholar of the science of language. So it's no surprise that The Sense of Style feels like a modern alternative to the classic but tired guides of Strunk and White and others. In my days as an English undergrad, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style was the biblical tome of writing. But Pinker arrives with this iconoclastic book to show us that sometimes rules can be tone-deaf to what really makes for transparent and compelling prose.

Purists often forget that the English language is rife with idiosyncrasies that can't be fit so neatly into rule boxes. You'll see the best kind of rule-breaking among poets and novelists, who often have the better "ear" and feel for language than your clumsy grammarian. Language is chiefly a medium for expression, not just an embodiment of rules. Literature's most gifted writers have often 'broken' the rules using constructions that might have been edited into sterility by heavy-handed editors. The expressive possibilities of language often rely on the rules being bent.

As you can see, this book isn't your typical manual on grammar and usage. You won't find a list of dos and don'ts in an effort to indoctrinate. Pinker shows us instead that unthinking adherence to manuals actually makes for bad, clunky writing. For example, one of the signature rules in writing is to avoid using the passive voice at all costs. But Pinker argues that if you change every passive sentence into an active one, you're not necessarily improving the prose. The main problem is that the passive construction exists for a purpose--but most people don't know when to use it effectively. Sure, both active and passive constructions convey the same information but they have cognitive differences because of the order of information given. Pinker's rule of thumb: Passive is the preferred construction when the affected entity (the item that receives the action) is the topic of the preceding discussion or when the agent of action is irrelevant to the discussion. In other words, good writing is about having a "sense," about letting your communication goals dictate the writing.

This book isn't for beginners. Pinker is clear in the Introduction about this and writes that this book is for experienced writers. You will benefit the most from this book if you are a relatively experienced writer and reader, and are familiar with the basic rules of language and grammar. You have to know the rules in order to bend them with style and with compelling reason, to know when to take advantage of loopholes and irregularities.

The "sense" in The Sense of Style is knowing how a masterful writer moves fluidly between logical rules and combinations, and knows those idiomatic usages and irregularities. The book is packed with examples and is wonderfully readable, which surprised me. Pinker is great at reverse engineering passages and illuminating what writers have done well (or not done well) to convey their ideas. Take lots of notes!

For those who still crave the utility of a reference manual, the later chapters in the book include lists of words and rules that can be bent and those that can't (in Pinker's opinion). Or, for a bite-size taste of the grammar rules Pinker explores in this book, check out this article ( by Pinker in The Guardian.

Overall, a great, informative read. I'll be keeping this on my reference shelf.

[Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads Program in exchange for an honest review.]
58 internautes sur 62 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 English Majors and Writers Will Enjoy 6 octobre 2014
Par Book Shark - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

The Sense of Style is a scholarly and witty book on the art of writing well. Bestselling author, linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker provides readers with a new writing-guide for the twenty-first century. He breaks down grammar rules and challenges purists on the best use of language. This challenging 368-page book includes the following six chapters: 1. Good Writing, 2. A Window onto the World, 3. The Curse of Knowledge, 4. The Web, the Tree, and the String, 5. Arcs of Coherence, and 6. Telling Right from Wrong.

1. Dr. Pinker consistently produces quality work.
2. A "very" unique topic, the art of writing well from a scientific perspective. You don't have to read the book to get my joke.
3. Good use of wit that adds panache to a book about writing style.
4. Good advice throughout the book. "By replacing dogma about usage with reason and evidence, I hope not just to avoid giving ham-fisted advice but to make the advice that I do give easier to remember than a list of dos and don'ts."
5. Explains the three main reasons why style matters.
6. Provides insights on how to become a good writer. "Writers acquire their technique by spotting, savoring, and reverse-engineering examples of good prose."
7. Supports good style over writing dogma. "The key to good style, far more than obeying any list of commandments, is to have a clear conception of the make-believe world in which you're pretending to communicate." "The purpose of writing is presentation, and its motive is disinterested truth. It succeeds when it aligns language with the truth, the proof of success being clarity and simplicity."
8. The characteristics of classic style. "A writer of classic prose must simulate two experiences: showing the reader something in the world, and engaging her in conversation."
9. Provides many examples of what constitutes poor prose: "Metadiscourse, signposting, hedging, apologizing, professional narcissism, clichés, mixed metaphors, metaconcepts, zombie nouns, and unnecessary passives."
10. Hanlon's Razor, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Excellent explanation on how the curse of knowledge may lead to poor prose. "The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose."
11. Ways on how to improve your prose. "Good prose is never written by a committee." Think about that.
12. The importance of understanding syntax. "Finally, an awareness of syntax can help you avoid ambiguous, confusing, and convoluted sentences. All of this awareness depends on a basic grasp of what grammatical categories are, how they differ from functions and meanings, and how they fit into trees."
13. Interesting insights on how our minds work and how that knowledge benefits good writing. "English syntax demands subject before object. Human memory demands light before heavy. Human comprehension demands topic before comment and given before new."
14. How to construct coherent passages longer than a sentence. "In fact, it's the hunger for coherence that drives the entire process of understanding language."
15. Discusses principles of composition. "An important principle in composition is that the amount of verbiage one devotes to a point should not be too far out of line with how central it is to the argument. "
16. Discusses good use of grammar, word choice, and punctuation. Starts off by debunking the myth that all traditional rules must be followed for dogma's sake. "That's right: when it comes to correct English, there's no one in charge; the lunatics are running the asylum. The editors of a dictionary read a lot, keeping their eyes open for new words and senses that are used by many writers in many contexts, and the editors add or change the definitions accordingly. Purists are often offended when they learn that this is how dictionaries are written."
17. Presents a list of common usage issues. "These are the ones that repeatedly turn up in style guides, pet-peeve lists, newspaper language columns, irate letters to the editor, and inventories of common errors in student papers." Great stuff.
18. Includes notes, glossary and a formal bibliography.

1. This book is intended for writers, not for laypersons. You must possess good command of the English language and grammar in order for this book to make sense. The grammar jargon will overwhelm the average reader.
2. The book's formatting leads to confusion. For a book predicated on clarity, many times I was lost.
3. The writing may come across as pretentious.
4. I wanted more neuroscience.

In summary, there is a direct correlation between the amount of stars this book deserves and your expertise on the subject. English majors and writers will give this book either four or five stars. On the other hand, laypersons will struggle with it to say the least. I'm giving this book four stars because even though my engineering brethren balks at reading such a book the avid reader in me recognizes its value. Writers will enjoy this book while the rest will struggle with it.

Further recommendations: "The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition" by William Strunk Junior, "On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction" by William Zinsser, "A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)" by Kate L. Turabian, "The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment" by Susan Thurman and Larry Shea, "Book Writing Mistakes (How To Avoid The Top 12 Mistakes New Business Book Authors Make)" by Jim Edwards, "How to Write Great Blog Posts that Engage Readers (Better Blog Booklets Book 1)" by Steve Scott, "English Grammar For Dummies" by Geraldine Woods, and "Grammar Girl's Punctuation 911: Your Guide to Writing it Right (Quick & Dirty Tips)" by Mignon Fogarty.
128 internautes sur 145 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not what I had hoped 6 octobre 2014
Par Charles Grayson - Publié sur
I like Steven Pinker a lot and his "Better Angels of our Nature" was one of the best books I've ever read. It is a tribute to his writing ability that that book kept me hooked until the very end. So I awaited this book eagerly and got it on the first day it was available. To my great disappointment, I found it hard to finish.

The first problem is organization...the book really doesn't lend itself to the purpose of being a style guide, because you can't thumb through it to find a relevant topic. It's mainly a book of dense prose. There are no headings, no bullets, no lists, and precious little white space.

The second problem is that the book is crammed with grammar jargon that's never defined, except maybe in the glossary at the back. Unless his goal was to exclude all non-grammar nerds, he seems to be afflicted with what he calls the "curse of knowledge", assuming that everyone else starts off with the same knowledge base that he possesses.

The third problem is similar to the one above. In one chapter he puts a lot of time into converting sentences into syntax trees. I found that following along with this analysis a bit tedious with no real payoff for the effort. I think it would have been more intuitive to simply have sentences displayed with words and phrases circled, along with arrows showing the relationships to other parts of the sentence.

The fourth and final problem is that he had little new to say on most of the topics he brought up. I had hoped that his background as a cognitive scientist would provide me with insights that mere grammarians could not provide, but such insights were few.

Had I been editor, I would have encouraged him to make the chapter "Arcs of coherence" become the entire book, minus the syntax trees. While grammar nitpicks can be amusing to talk about, in the end what most determines the effectiveness of writing is how coherently the ideas are expressed and connected with other ideas. With Pinker's background, perhaps he could have made an important contribution in this area, rather than covering ground that others have trod before him.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 In a word 31 décembre 2014
Par Mick McAllister - Publié sur
I don't know what it is about this book that prompts 1,000-word reviews. I'll try to keep this short.

This book suffers from Pinker's mild self-absorption. Having announced that it is book for writers, not a book for novices, he begins with 150 interesting pages on writing that, as some of the reviews point out, require some specialist knowledge and the ability to absorb cutting-edge new insights about grammar. That half of the book is interesting, not least because it is one of the few books that approaches writing from a cognitive point of view. And it's nice to see someone arguing for things I was iconoclastically telling my own students 20 years ago....

The second half of the book is a wash. First off, it abandons the "serious writer" and addresses itself to writers so clueless that they don't know English 101 comma rules or the difference between "affect" and "effect." In other words, half the book is just another "Write this, not that" usage guide, addressed mainly to the layman. That would not be a bad thing, but the layman would fourwall the book by 100 pages into the first half, and those of us who know the basics don't need a primer.

The other problem with the second half is that, IMHO, Pinker is wrong far more often than serious writers would be patient with. For example, his explanation of alternatives to split infinitives, his wrong analysis of the meanings of "may," and his bizarre approval of saying "Frankenstein" when you mean the monster. his cred as a "usage expert" was shot pretty quickly. And yes, there is a bit of gentle misogyny to leave a bad taste. One longs to point out to him that most "Miss Thistlebottoms" are men and that there is no reason the Anal Retentive purist should be "Ms. Retentive."

That said, the first half of the book is interesting, engaging, and informative. I especially like "Hanlon's razor" (Never attribute to malice what can be accounted for by stupidity -- although it's unfortunate that by 'stupid' he sometimes means "disagreeing with me") and the entire presentation of "the curse of knowledge," which cogently explains why good writers go bad. The latter may be the justification for the entire book.
16 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Shooting fish in a barrel 16 novembre 2014
Par K. Scott - Publié sur
The first part of Pinker's book makes some useful points about the challenges of producing clear expository nonfiction prose. Then he goes into his "web" thing. IMO, only someone with a pretty good prior understanding of English grammar could fathom what he is talkinga bout most of the time. It doesn't take a linguistics Ph.D. to explain the basics of English grammar. Apparently, however, it does take one to debunk those who have fairly effortlessly done so in the past and to mystify it for the rest of his readers. I would love to know whether any reader's actual comprehension of English grammar was improved by reading about the web, heads of phrases, etc. This is a perfect example of the type of obfuscatingcrap that he accuses others of (those "others" being any other authority besides himself), and just because he is a certified linguistics pooh bah doesn't make him an automatic authority on style. Chomsky is also a linguistics giant and his writing style is a model of clarity on all subjects, without his having to resort to the Pinker variety of nonsense. Pinker is, in sum, pretty pleased with himself and his own writing style.

Throughout, and especially in the "manual" section of the book, Pinker is basically shooting fish in a barrel, fastening on issues that are well understood in their pros and cons by any competent copy editor and most other people who take an interest in language. Copy editors, teachers, writers on style (except himself, of course) and any other professionals come in for a lot of his gratuitious pot shots and breezy derision---many of them grouped within the rubric "purists" or demonized for victimizing poor ol' Pinker ("spitballs from the Gotcha! gang"). This ad hominem shorthand allows Pinker' to excuse himself from pinpointing many the actual specific opinions and sources of opinions with which he disagrees. He has the chutzpah to present himself as an authority ("If someone criticizes you for X, say that I said it is fine"--he actually writes this!), while transparently presenting his personal preferences and opinions as "objective." Unbelievable! Yeah, then he actually drags in his own wife as an example of the true and the good in writing.

Furthermore, despite his labored explanation of why he solves the he/she pronouns situation as he does (while neglecting to present the many ways that writers can solve gender-equality issues in their nonfiction prose, including the most obvious, which he notes in a later section), the book suffers from a crypto misogyny. This comes through with his mention of Miss Thistlebottom, Sister Bernadette, and other "spinsters" (yes, he uses that word) who impose silly grammatical rules, never noticing or calling out the original creators of these characters for their misogyny. He joins right in. Here is a lesson that Pinker could learn from any experienced editor or copy editor---or, yes, reader. The personality of the writer comes through the page, often without the writer's being aware of it. Pinker comes across to me like an arrogant, conceited mama's son. He thinks his childish digs at others are very witty (unfortunately this attitude has gotten a fair amount of approval in some reviewing quarters where I guess people are impressed by SP's credentials). He sets up a lot of grammatical strawmen and then rides in like a white knight to protect the hoi polloi from those mean black knights enforcing silly rules. Although, per Pinker, you still do have to make up your own mind about a lot, so if you are not the brilliant all-comprehending Pinker, on what basis are you to make up your mind?

My advice to readers is to picture Pinker with a buzz cut before reading this book.
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