Reviews

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth

lia_mills's review against another edition

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funny informative lighthearted fast-paced

5.0

Method: physical book 

Genuinely one of the funniest and most informative books I've ever read, and definitely my favourite book about rhetoric and the English language. 

I deeply wish I'd read this book when I was in high school - partly because it would have been very useful to me when studying English, and partly because it would have helped me feel both more competent and more confident in creative writing (and writing in general). 

This gets 5/5 stars from me because I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading. 

triumphal_reads's review against another edition

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funny informative lighthearted fast-paced

4.0

rie_lim's review against another edition

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4.0

This book is education. The dry humour came through at parts and it gave great insights to the different writing techniques spanning centuries, visible all around us, unknown. It's especially intriguing to learn that many of such are deeply seeded in our everyday speech, media, so assimilated in our daily conversations, music without us knowing, and we never had known of such techniques if we weren't ever educated on this.

The same way we recycle and evolve concepts, communication is one of them. Fascinating! This is a good brief foundation for those intrigued by eloquence in the form of techniques, examining past literary works with evidence of applications.

issa_her's review against another edition

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informative reflective fast-paced

4.0

imaginethisreader's review against another edition

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funny informative

4.75

mgouker's review against another edition

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5.0

Witty, instructive, and didn't take itself too seriously. Loved the examples too!

amlibera's review against another edition

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4.0

A favorite kind of book of mine, in which someone who is very smart and funny explains something a little obscure but very interesting. And useful.

seclement's review against another edition

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5.0

I have read about a dozen books on rhetoric, but this was by far the best. Entertaining, funny, coherent, and evidenced based. Forsyth is really quite gifted in using and identifying the elements of rhetoric he discusses, and the transitions between chapters are excellent. A short but informative read, I actually didn't want it to end!

rebroxannape's review against another edition

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4.0

“if you say, ‘Full fathom five thy father lies’, you will be considered the greatest poet who ever lived. Express precisely the same thought any other way – e.g. ‘your father’s corpse is 9.144 metres below sea level’ – and you’re just a coastguard with some bad news.”
This is a very clever and funny book about the wonders of rhetoric. This book is to be enjoyed for the overall appreciation it will give you for the myriad ways great writers wrote and why they were effective and why we remember their thoughts, sentences, lyrics, and paragraphs today. A little tweak here and there and many immortal passages would have perished in the ashes of time. If your goal is to learn specific vocabulary words and be able to give examples of each and every type of rhetorical conceit, you will be disappointed unless you have a photographic memory. My advice is: don’t even try to memorize the elements in order to, what? pull erudite and esoteric knowledge out at cocktail parties? Just enjoy. The great strength of the book is the many examples perfectly chosen of each trick and technique great writers used to get their point across. From the Bible to the Beatles; from Shakespeare to Lewis Carroll and Bob Dylan, Mr. Forsyth leaves no secret or subtlety unrevealed. His tone is full of fun, irreverent, and even joyful, even as its scholarship is impeccable.

https://rebekahsreadingsandwatchings.com/

patchworkbunny's review against another edition

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4.0

The Elements of Eloquence; its very title an example of the first chapter’s rhetoric, alliteration. This charming little book from the man who brought you The Etymologicon and The Horologicon reveals the secrets of all great poets (and songwriters) with tongue firmly in cheek. Whilst we all learned about alliteration at school, the rest of rhetoric has been thrown out with the bathwater.

Before the Romantics came along, the figures of rhetoric were studied extensively and used by the likes of Shakespeare to make some of the greatest lines in literary history. Shakespeare was not a genius, he just learned what makes words sound good and memorable. And that is where this book sets off, picking apart poems, songs and political speeches (but don’t worry, only tiny bits of them) and pointing out what technique makes them work. All in a friendly, and at times amusing, tone.

Whilst it’s a book that can be dipped into now and then, the chapter structure tricks you into reading more than you intended. There are 39 chapters, to deal with 39 figures of rhetoric. Each example ends with an example of the next term. So one chapter ends:

“Striking down and blind” is, by the way, an example of syllepsis.

And, of course, the next chapter is syllepsis so you think you might as well spend a few more minutes finding out what that is and next thing you know, it’s the middle of the night and you’ve finished the whole book.

I actually tried writing a review in poetry using all the techniques but it started to get a bit silly:

The Elements of Eloquence, an entertaining endeavour.
Book yourself in for a weekend alone with this book.
Read these words; read to be educated and read to chuckle.
I wonder…
Read, I tell you, read!

You see where that was going. But I did fit in alliteration, polyptoton, antithesis, aposiopesis and diacope. The personification in iambic pentameter didn’t make the cut… I’m not a natural at poetry but after reading this book, it’s become a lot easier to see why some poems, and quotes, work better than others.

One thing I did learn, it that I’ve been using ellipsis all wrong. I don’t think anyone noticed though.

If you enjoyed Mark Forsyth’s other books, you’re bound to enjoy this one and it’s the perfect gift for any word geeks. Although if you’ve got a PhD in English language, you may already know a lot of this, but I would hope it’s still got enough enjoyment factor to it. I think it could also have its place in the classroom. There should be room for learning to be fun too