About the Author

Glen Dresser is a novelist whose first book, Correction Road, was released in 2007 and shortlisted for the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary book prize. He has also worked as a technical writer, information designer and web developer. He is currently focusing his efforts on his second novel and his first-born son, while assisting with UPPERCASE Magazine

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The Artful Sentence

A friend was recently asking me for recommendations about books on writing, and while I don't read many books on the subject, I have one absolute favorite, which I consider mastful in its scope, subject, and writing (it's shocking how often books on writing often suffer from poor writing themselves). 

The book is The Artful Sentence: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte. Anyone interested in information design might recognise the name: Virginia Tufte is mother to Edward Tufte, who's volumes on information design are the most informative and beautiful out there. Virginia's book is equally well-crafted, and published by her son's press. It's also a handsome tome, and I always keep it in a prominent location on my desk, inviting queries and discussion from anyone who notices it. 

Tufte starts with a very simple but powerful concept -- the short sentence -- and moves through increasingly complex syntactical devices: propositions, appositive phrases, parellelism, cohesion and many more. In each case, she cites examples from an impressive range of literature. When one focuses on the examples, the book really becomes a library of excellent little pieces of writing. But equally impressive is Tufte's own writing, which is not only clear, but also as elegant and stylish as the examples she uses, and she probes language at a deeper level than simply explaining the rules of language. As an example, in the first chapter she outlines four different styles of  short sentences, and then goes beyond that to explain how short sentences function syntactically within a paragraph to provide a change of pace; can provide a simple and clear beginning; can add a touch of finality to the ending. 

There are a lot of books out there offering general inspirational advice about being a writer, or suggesting activities to jump-start your creative process. And while all of that is fine, it's equally important for a young writer to submerge one's self in the power and beauty of language. That's what this book is about. 

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