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Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking like a Professional

I cannot imagine being more intimidated about writing a book review than I am about writing this one.   After all, The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking like a Professional all but promises to make me a better writer (and speaker).  So, if you think this is a sloppily written review, all I can offer in defense of the book’s effectiveness is that you should have read my reviews before I completed it.
Will my thoughts be judged more on style and presentation points than on content?  Will my average sentence length come close to the suggested 20-word standard?  Will I use too many prepositions per sentence or use the passive voice too often?  Will I allow long introductory clauses to overwhelm the main thoughts of my individual sentences?  Will I be able to avoid my bad habit of using “weasel words,” words so vague the reader can interpret them in countless shades of gray?  You get the idea.  Or have I already bored you to the point of abandoning the review for good?  
Using Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address as his inspirational model, Philip Yaffe offers a concise instructional manual for those desiring to improve the effectiveness of their writing.  The book will appeal to those who enjoy writing already, as well as to those who write only when they absolutely must.  Yaffe clearly admires how at Gettysburg, in only 272 words, Lincoln “says more than most people could say in several thousand.”  Based upon that model, Yaffe divides his book into two short theoretical segments: 55 pages on writing fundamentals and 43 pages on public speaking.  He follows those sections with a series of appendices (A through M) that reinforce, through examples and exercises, the points he makes in the book’s theoretical sections.
Much of what Yaffe says about writing and speaking skills is common sense and will already be second nature to some readers.  But just as good writing habits become second nature with repetition, the same is true for bad ones; after a while, they will feel as correct to the writer’s “ear” as the real thing.  The appendix exercises address this problem by providing poorly written pieces that are to be edited and rewritten in the author’s suggested style.  These exercises are, in fact, where most of the book’s real teaching occurs.  
The Gettysburg Approach is written in an informal, anecdotal style that distinguishes it from most other writing manuals.  It is fun to read and so concisely written that it is probably the only such manual I have read from cover-to-cover.  That I expect to revisit its pages on a regular basis until I can assimilate all its tips and suggestions suggests to me that the book is also an excellent choice for new high school and college students.
Rated at: 5.0
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