Many writing manuals (dare we say most?) are simply excuses for their authors to air their own often eccentric attitudes toward the writing process and what the finished product should resemble. This approach may make those writers a few dollars, or (worse) it may create a legion of copycats, but it'll hardly improve anyone's writing.
Victor Pellegrino's A Writer's Guide to Powerful Paragraphs is not that kind of book. The basic subtitle is clear: 30 Ways to Organize and Write Effective Paragraphs. This is what Pellegrino promises, and he delivers it in a series of short chapters that are readable and informative.
A brief "How to Use This Book" section helps readers understand its purpose and layout. The next section reviews the history of the paragraph, its function, and its basic structure. Pellegrino urges everyone to read this section, whether as a refresher or as new information, as the rest of the book is based on principles included here.
The rest of the book is called "Thirty Ways to Write Paragraphs," and is exactly what it sounds like. Each paragraph style gets its own short chapter, which includes four basic sections: a definition and description of the given paragraph type, an example paragraph, an analysis of the example, and practical suggestions for writing your own.
This section (Pellegrino calls it the most important) is organized by most-used paragraph type, with the first being Chronological and the last Summary. The writing is clear, and Pellegrino doesn't have a stylistic agenda; instead, his goal is to help writers of all kinds (professional, amateur, student, whatever) improve by giving them comprehensive knowledge of paragraph writing.
A Writer's Guide to Powerful Paragraphs ends with a highly practical section called "Taking the Next Steps." This covers both using two or more paragraph types in one paragraph, and organizing multiple paragraphs. What it takes other authors many chapters or hundreds of pages to cover, it takes Pellegrino a few well-written paragraphs.
Writing reference tools tend either to spend too much time on one topic or to bite off more than the author can chew. This book commits neither authorial crime, instead presenting a comprehensive, clear approach to the second most fundamental element of good writing (after sentences). This is really the only book you'll ever need on paragraph writing.
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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