Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read

Image of Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses)
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
June 25, 2013
Publisher/Imprint: 
Plume
Pages: 
288
Reviewed by: 

“. . . unlocking the secret of great writing.”

A novel is an utter hallucination according to Little Big Man author Thomas Berger, and he’s right. Taken down to its basic level—a group of words—it is, as he says, no different to a laundry list.

The sentence, then, is where we must start in order to discover why, according to English professor Brooks Landon’s masterclass-in-a-book, some writing captivates us and other writing leaves us unmoved.

“I’m absolutely certain that whatever great writing may be, the secret to achieving it has largely to do with learning how to write great sentences,” he says, and that skill is just what his book—based on a Teaching Company course—sets out to teach.

And while Mr. Landon acknowledges the spectacular success and memorable quality of “justly celebrated” short sentences like the powerful “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the New Testament, he believes no one can really teach one- or two-word sentences and that most of us will go a lifetime without ever having the opportunity—or reason—to craft them.

No, says Professor Landon. Longer sentences, provided they are carefully crafted and tightly controlled, are the essential key to unlocking the secret of great writing.

Demonstrating exactly what it is that he believes makes a sentence great-through examples from great literature, as well as his own expertise-the professor shares his basic strategies for manipulating words in such a way that they will take the reader on a journey of the writer’s choosing.