The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth, bestselling author of The Etymologicon (2012) andThe Horologicon (2013), begins his most recent book with a bold statement: “ Shakespeare was not a genius.” What he hopes to impart here and throughout his latest project is that anyone can work towards composing beautiful sentences. Shakespeare’s trick was his learned mastery of rhetorical devices and their many functions. With examples ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to Dorothy Parker to Katy Perry, Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase teaches writers of every kind to invigorate their work with these devices.
While some of the devices covered in his 39 chapters may feel familiar (hyperbole, alliteration, paradox), Forsyth’s impressive range of examples give common terms a new depth. Plus, his book will surely teach you a new word or two: take “syllepsis,” for example, which happens when a writer uses a single word in two or more ways. An “adynaton” is a hyperbolic negative response to a question or request. “Diacope” describes the sandwich effect utilized by Shakespeare’s Othello when he says, “Put out the light, and then put out the light.” These and many others adeptly explore the boundless possibilities of language, providing tools to appreciate the beautiful sentences we find and to create our own.
“Reinvigorating our sense of the ingredients and recipes that make our utterances flavorsome…, Mr. Forsyth wants to drive home the point that potent rhetorical devices are all around us—whether in political speeches, advertisements or Katy Perry lyrics—and he does that handsomely.” – The Wall Street Journal