Book review: ‘First You Write a Sentence’ by Joe Moran

The elements of reading, writing… and life.

First You Write a Sentence

I latched on to this book thanks to a random passing tweet. It sounded like my kind of book, providing practical writing advice, so I decided to give it a try.

After a slow but entertaining start, Joe Moran begins dishing out plenty of useful advice. Writing is all about sentences, and this book is about how to put sentences together. Some of the advice is pretty standard: keep sentences short, cut back on the adverbs and adjectives, use simple words of few syllables, don’t over-punctuate, but make sure you don’t stick too rigidly to the rules, and vary things every so often. All excellent advice.

Where the book really took off for me, though, was when Moran describes the joys of well-written long sentences, explaining how to go about writing them, the pitfalls to avoid, and the tricks you can use to make them more readable. As someone who’s tried his damnedest to make his sentences shorter and shorter over the years, I found this section particularly thought-provoking and useful.

If you want to improve your writing, you would do well to read this book.

Recommended.


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