How to Write Clearly

How to Write Clearly

The Meaning Approach

by Ruth Beechick
Publisher: Mott Media
Trade Paperback, 83 pages
Price: $6.99

While there is a glossary of grammar terms at the end of How to Write Clearly, it's the least important part of the book. Ruth Beechick, Christian education guru and prolific writer, suggests the content of writing is more important than the mechanics, and that the mechanics are often determined by what the writer wants to say. She calls this the "meaning approach," and sets out to teach writers from the teen years up to improve their style without drowning them in conjugations and the pluperfect tense.

Modern teaching sensibilities set rigid grammar at the center of the writing curriculum. Students are drilled on and forced to memorize long lists of conjugated verbs, declined nouns and abstruse terminology that does nothing to improve their writing skills. While Beechick has nothing against learning the grammar jargon once the basics are learned, she has everything against foisting it on students who do not yet know how to construct a meaningful and well-ordered sentence. To understand technical language, one first needs to understand the concepts behind it.

Because learning the rules and terminology of grammar is based on rote memorization, it forces students to cram information while precluding any need or ability to reason clearly. If it is simply rules that govern writing, thought is unnecessary, only strict adherence to formulae. Beechick categorically rejects this attitude, insisting that, to become good writers students must be trained how to think about their writing, and that the right kind of thought will usually guide them to proper usage even if they don't know all (or any) of the rules.

This isn't a rulebook and it doesn't contain exercises. It's a guide to help students write better by using reason and common sense rather than rules and memorized (but, to the student, often meaningless) regulations. A preface shows how grammar instruction became the norm, while the final chapter details briefly the Anglo-Saxon rather than often-taught Latin origins of the English language. Destined to give The Elements of Style a run for its money, How to Write Clearly is a must-read for any teenager or adult who wants to improve their abilities and craft.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Summary: Ruth Beechick presents her "meaning approach" to writing—the idea that form should adapt to content.

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