The Elements of Eloquence – book review

You’ll never read poetry, watch Shakespeare or listen to a Katy Perry song in quite the same way again after reading Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence. 

This irreverent and engaging book explains the ancient figures of rhetoric, ranging from the better known ones such as alliteration right through to obscure sounding techniques such as anadiplosis and hendiadys.

Rather than putting poets and writers on a pedestal – this book starts by stating Shakespeare was not a genius, and later says it’s a mistake to obsess over what a poet meant, as it’s only how the poet wrote that matters – Forsyth instead shows a respect for the hardwork and craftsmanship of writing. Shakespeare may not have been a genius, Forsyth says, but he did develop a mastery of the rhetorical devices this book explains.

Combining knowledge with audaciousness (even the title of the book is a cheeky example of alliteration, with Forsyth trying to better Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style), The Elements of Eloquence is a must read for writers.

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