“Language or style that is less than engaging… is, frankly, dead on arrival.” Arthur Plotnik takes no prisoners in his effort to breathe life into a writer’s work, offering a series of topics to tickle the imagination rather than serve as a how-to guide. Although decidedly unorthodox, these chapters are “meant to energize writing and liberate it from certain outdated style conventions.”
Unlike the writer’s rule book Elements of Style, aka Strunk & White, this concise volume offers some thought-provoking suggestions for writing with an extra edge, acknowledging the advantage of a creative boost in an increasingly competitive market. Strictly following the rules sometimes yields a loss of flavor or, as Plotnik phrases the issue, “dead writing.” By all means write that banal first draft, urges Plotnik, then “sniff out and destroy everything that smells predictable, clichéd, formulaic, labored or lazy.”
Author of The Elements of Editing, Plotnik leaves no question unchallenged in chapters that address texture, language, force and stimulation, punctuation, clarity and writing for the contemporary marketplace. Using illustrative examples from established writers, unabashedly tossing in his own cleverly-phrased headings and a medley of metaphors, the author wields language like a sharp sword, energetically slashing the hackneyed and overused, probing and questioning, his style as engaging as his intentions.
The text is sprinkled with suggestions, such as “Internet Word-a-Day Sources: A Sampling,” a list of sites that will send word features via email by subscription (wordspy.com; vocabula.com; wordsmith.org/awad). These sites can be readily culled for “writer’s words” to add extra context to the work. Other topics addressed are “Style and Frequency of Foreignisms” (keeping in mind that such substitutes wear thin with overuse); “Literary Editors on Quotation Style”; and “Deeper Secrets of Semicolons: Some Q & A’s.”
Breeching the ramparts of the traditional, Plotnik kick-starts the writing process into a media-savvy century where distraction is anathema, urging writers to remain alert for that defining phrase or style that is both engaging and original. Thus armed, the writer can forcefully grab the reader’s attention, taking advantage of a new freedom born of modern communication.