Reading: “How to Write a Sentence”

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading this book in hopes of finding another book to use in my high school writing class. (I’ve taught Zinsser’s On Writing Well for years.) This one isn’t it. What led me to give it a try was the length – it’s short, high school students like that – so I read it quickly, in only a few days. But boy is it dull and repetitive! There are some excellent nuggets of wisdom in here, and Fish does make his point by selecting wonderful sentences from classic literature to use as examples . . . but his method gets old— fast. And it’s a problem when a book manages to get old in such a short space. As I was reading, I was thinking, “My students would hate this.” If anything, How to Write a Sentence is for adult writers, possibly experienced ones looking for new ideas to ponder. On the bright side, it’s erudite and intelligent and even funny in spots. On the other side, the cultural references are a little old – so, not for teenagers in the 2020s – and even this English-major-turned-writer/teacher doesn’t really want to read book of sentence explications. This isn’t a bad book, not by a long shot, but . . . well, yeah.


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