Plain Style: a guide to written English By Christopher Lasch; edited and with an introduction by Stewart Weaver

I was delighted to find this book of common sense about writing in English clearly.  Lasch is best known for his books about American social history such as The Culture of Narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations.  He was a socialist who became disillusioned with the failure of the radical left to adhere to practical core values.  He angered liberals with criticism of the women’s movement, and increasing bureaucracy of social activists.  American conservatives were even worse in his opinion.  He was an enemy of capitalism without restraint or concern for social morality.  It seems to me that he managed to alienate almost everyone, but he did it clearly.  His concepts were difficult for me to understand and I disagreed with some of them, but he expressed his thoughts well in compelling, ordered language.

Lasch felt compelled to write a primer on writing after years of grading papers and finding his students often were unable to string together a sentence where the subjects and verbs agreed with each other, or arrive at the end of a paragraph without wandering off into nonsense.  The subjects he taught were difficult and required sustained concentration and study to understand.  The students would read the books and put forth great effort to write pages and pages that were unintelligible.  Though The Elements of Style by Strunk and White was required reading for Lasch’s classes, it became apparent that something more was needed.  Lasch compiled notes and the mimeographed copies were standard issue to his students at Rochester University.  These classroom notes became Plain Style.

(Kelly Prewett, Hemphill Branch)


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