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The end result of this book: Write without thinking
Posted by Ryan Gardner on 12/22/1999
There tend to be two levels of achievement in everything we do: the functional level, and the superb level. In school, we are taught the functional level; in life, we admire the superb level. Drivers education will not make you a race car driver, and your english class will not make you a good writer.
In this book, however, are the skills and techniques necessary to take your writing and expression beyond the current level. Since I've read the words in that book, the words in my papers have suddenly been lining up for me and saying things in clever ways.
The book talks about specific ways, and gives specific examples, of how good writers write. There is no bull in this book. If you read it, apply it, and write a lot - you will improve your writing.
It used to take me about eighteen hours to write a single page paper because my mind would go off in so many directions trying to get my idea on paper. It now takes me about twenty minutes, because I am able to think through an entire paper before I write it.
It sounds rather fanciful, but in reality it isn't. The book helps select what literary methods to use. It is your caddy. In your bag are many tricks which you use to drive ideas home or push thoughts along. Each trick, like a golf club, is useful in certain situations. The caddy helps you pick them.
Most other books give you the clubs but not the caddy. This book is different because it tells you how and when to use them - and it knows. This is not your pimple-faced 12 year old caddy... Oh no, this is the real deal. This is the caddy that will get you off of the torn up local greens and onto your neighbors TV screen... Leave the functional and join the superb. This book will help you get there.
Homeschool parents, rejoice!
Posted by Erica Bell on 7/24/2004
I've purchased several expensive books, combed our library system, and spent hours online looking for a way to replicate my 4 years in A.P. English for my homeschooling kids. This magical little book is by far the easiest to apply to homeschooling formats, the most thorough, and far and away the cheapest solution to our problem. I can't rave about it enough.
Please don't be put off by some reviews here that call Payne's little book "boring"---it's not MTV, certainly, but it's succinct and gets right down to business in a chatty style. The examples are dated, true, but I find that a plus: teens are more willing to properly evaluate the arguments for or against, say, drag racing (a puzzling social "problem" to our kids)than more volatile modern issues that kick in a more knee-jerk emotional response. The dated examples are quaint rather than distracting, and they don't detract from her lessons.
Essays can be excruciatingly formulaic, or they can blend, in Payne's words, "fact with imagination, knowledge with feeling, never giving itself over wholly to one or the other. But its purpose is always the same: to express an opinion." Learning the format and developing elegant, personal style is what this gem is all about. And a book that combines an all-in-one guide to constructing an essay (as opposed to a report or a manual) combined with a VERY useful style section is really hard to find! It's funny, too--her crusade against the passive voice, "A Plan For Self-Protection" is a good example: "At this extreme, passive voice aquires a peculiar aura of its own, a subtle undertone of ah-how-sweet-and-sad-and-strange the world is(always pleasing to the young, and to the young writer almost irresistable). Resist it. It's just secretarial prose with its face painted: all dressed up but still going nowhere."
Thoughtful questions at the end of each short chapter help with comprehension. This would be a great "text" to use in a co-op setting, although it would work well with a student learning alone. Thank goodness it's still available!