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On the Bookshelf

A Matter of Style
By Matthew Clark
Oxford University Press, 2002, 170 pp.,
ISBN 0-19-541762-3, Price $15.95

Reviewed by Andi Argast

A Matter of Style is a guide to the intricate nuances of prose. Language is a basic tool we all use and Matthew Clark demonstrates that writing can be lifted from its basic communicative function to a nearly lyrical art.

Using example passages from a wide range of prose, Clark dissects and analyzes each piece. He begins by discussing grammar, moves to the components of a sentence, then looks at the structure of paragraphs, and finishes with a discussion of the novel form.

Clark's analysis is through and intelligent. He illustrates that style in writing can take many different forms, from the rhythm of words, to figures of speech. He often breaks down one literary example in several different ways, demonstrating the flexibility of written language. Clark also shows the reader many passages where the stylistic device has worked to produce fluid and well written prose. The variety of his examples is always interesting, as they range from Jane Austin, to Margaret Mead, to Cicero.

From the outset, Clark warns that A Matter of Style is written with the assumption that the reader has a good understanding of basic grammar -- and this is a definite requirement if the book is to be thoroughly enjoyed.

A Matter of Style is a good guide for anyone wishing to broaden their writing abilities, or for anyone who loves the delicate workings of written language.


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