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Good Stuff

By Herb Kohl

Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style
By Virginia Tufte
(Graphics Press, 2006)
310 pp. $16

Beautiful Evidence
By Edward Tufte
(Graphics Press, 2006)
214 pp. $52

Syntax is the way sentences are put together, and the way in which parts of speech and phrases are orchestrated to make meaningful and interesting writing. If you teach syntax, want to write, or delight in wonderfully constructed sentences, Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences is a book for you. It is not an easy read. In fact, I am now rereading it carefully. But I believe that anyone who is serious about developing students’ sense of how language works and how they can take control of their own writing, must read this book.

Tufte, a professor emerita of English at the University of Southern California, built her book around 1,500 carefully selected sentences from the best writing in the English language. The first chapter, for example, is on the use of short sentences:

Everyone has someone. Except me.
(Carolyn See)
Autos honked. Trees rustled. People passed. Arnie went out.
(Langston Hughes)



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