Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no mystery to writing well. It’s a skill that just about anyone can learn, more craft than art. When words fail us, as they often do, the reasons are usually simple. So are the solutions. They can be as easy as finding a punchier verb or breaking a sentence in two or moving a word somewhere else. Of course, the term “writing” covers a lot of ground. But whether your work ends up in a history professor’s e-mail, a marketing report, a community newsletter, or a bestselling novel, the pitfalls are the same. Words Fail Me is about techniques for making poor writing presentable and good writing even better. Think of it as a user’s manual for words.
Some Chapters in Words Fail Me
- COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS: The First Few Words
- FROM HERE TO UNCERTAINTY: How Am I Doing?
- POMPOUS CIRCUMSTANCES: Hold the Baloney
- SMOTHERING HEIGHTS: Misbehaving Modifiers
- CRITIQUE OF POOR REASON: The Art of Making Sense
- GRAMMAR MOSES: Thou Shalt Not Embarrass Thyself
- THE HUMAN COMEDY: What’s So Funny?
- I SECOND THAT EMOTION: Once More, with Feeling
- THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HONEST: Leveling with the Reader
- ONCE AROUND THE BLOCK: What to Do When You’re Stuck
Have you got rhythm?
A writer’s checklist.
Reviews of Words Fail Me
“The practical and tough-minded O’Conner uses her playful sense of humor to help us swallow with a laugh the rules that schoolmarms once forced down students’ throats.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Bless her. She’s smart about the little things as well as the essentials. This isn’t just nuts-and-bolts mechanics. It’s the deft touch that makes craftsmen of carpenters and artists, sometimes, of workaday writers.”
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“So effortless to read. The back cover shows up before you’ve broken a sweat.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Helpful to anyone who puts pen, or word processor, to paper.”
— Seattle Times
“Designed to ensure that our words do justice to our ideas.”
“A superb reference with practical advice, relevant examples and O’Conner’s brand of witty humor.”
“O’Conner is one of those sneaky-good writers: You don’t see the effort behind her smoothness, and it’s easy to miss the little gems she drops in.”
“Witty, practical advice on good writing.”
— Book-of-the-Month Club
“This wise, witty tome is the perfect choice for anyone who writes.”
— Hartford Courant
“Her approach to words and writing is as engaging as it is authoritative.”
— Des Moines Register