Plain Style is an amusing and instructive guide to written English by the late Christopher Lasch, author of The Culture of Narcissism, The True and Only Heaven, and many other memorable works of American history and social criticism. Written for the benefit of the students at the University of Rochester, where Lasch taught from 1970 until his death in 1994, it quickly established itself in typescript as a local classic—a lively, witty, and historically minded alternative to the famous volume by William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style.
Now available for the first time in published form, Plain Style is fundamentally a clear, readable, practical guide to the timeless principles of effective composition. At the same time, however, in ways that Stewart Weaver explains in his critical introduction, it is a distinctive and revealing addition to the published work of an eminent American thinker. No mere primer, Plain Style is an essay in cultural criticism, a political treatise even, by one for whom directness, clarity, and honesty of expression were essential to the living spirit of democracy.
As the teachers and students who have for years benefited from its succinct wisdom will testify, Plain Style is an indispensable guide to writing and, indeed, Christopher Lasch's least-expected but perhaps most serviceable work.
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Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) was Professor of History at the University of Rochester. Among his many books are The Culture of Narcissism, The Minimal Self, The True and Only Heaven, and Haven in a Heartless World. Stewart Weaver is Professor of History at the University of Rochester.From Booklist:
The late Lasch, college history professor and the author of The Culture of Narcissism (1979), among other seminal works, so despaired of his graduate students' writing that he began to compile a list of common compositional errors. This list soon evolved into a full-fledged writing guide that was published for departmental use. Now, edited and with a long introduction-cum-biography by one of his colleagues, it is being marketed as a shorter, up-to-date alternative to Strunk & White's Elements of Style. The guide is divided into six parts, covering the principles of literary construction; conventions governing punctuation, capitalization, typography, and footnotes; characteristics of bad writing; words often misused; words often mispronounced; and a table of proofreaders' marks. Lasch's wry, distinctive voice is evident throughout and, in parts, will provoke outright laughter. Here's his priceless comment on the word lifestyle: "The appeal of this tired but now ubiquitous phrase probably lies in the suggestion that life is largely a matter of style. Find something else to say about life." For serious word lovers. Joanne Wilkinson
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