Moran says he wants to “hearten, embolden and galvanise the reader”, in order that he or she, as a writer, should take pains over making sentences. He does not want to call his book a style guide, a genre he associates with “prescriptions and proscriptions”. It is, rather, “a style guide by stealth”, “a love letter to the sentence”. It offers us bracing – and often sententious – sentences... He eloquently laments the rise and rise of “the argot of modern managerialism”, with its “nouny sentences”. As an academic, he feelingly deplores the bad habits of academic prose, with its conjunctive adverbs (“Moreover …”, “However …”) and its twitchy meta-comment (“I will argue that …”). Yet he equally knows that less is not always best... Moran is a thoroughly sane, thoughtful commentator. It took me a long time to find something to disagree with in his book, but about two thirds of the way through I succeeded... you fear that Moran’s precepts will slip from the memory; even the best of readers have Struldbrugg tendencies.
In the eyes of social historian Joe Moran, such reverence is far from absurd... His new book is both a love letter to the sentence and a ‘style guide by stealth’ which, he hopes, will ‘hearten, embolden and galvanize the reader’... While he has plenty of fresh insights, the ground is well trodden... Much of the book is thoughtful, embody-ing Moran’s twin enthusiasms for poetic succinctness and expansive warmth. He demonstrates that examining the nuances of prose sharpens our awareness of the textures of life... Yet in the process of fetishising the individual sentence, Moran risks developing a stylistic tic of his own: a glut of aphorism... He can also be twee... Moran isn’t naive about the larger challenges of creativity. But he is unapologetic about the essentially pedantic nature of his book. As in Jonathan Lethem’s short story, a fixation with the symmetries of the sentence proves limiting.