How To Write A Sentence

When I first heard this interview on NPR, I was intrigued by author Stanley Fish’s take on what he calls “the art of the sentence”. I will be the first to admit I’m not the most proficient writer, but I love to read and was quite taken by his concepts. While at work the same day, my husband also heard the article and ordered  two copies of the book, How To Write A Sentence and How To Read One by Stanley Fish, one for his best friend Mike and one for our house.

It’s a quick read and worth the couple hours it takes to get through the book if you’re looking to improve upon your writing or, if like Stanley Fish, you savor a well written sentences. My favorite part of the book was his Karate Kid analogy:

“This, then, is my theology: You shall tie yourself to forms and the forms shall set you free. I call this the Karate Kid method of learning how to write. In the 1984 cult movie (recently remade), the title figure is being trained to preform in a match, but rather than being instructed in a match’s rhythms and demands, he is asked by his teacher to practice polishing cars (“wax on, wax off”) and painting fences. Although the kid thinks he isn’t learning anything, he is learning everything; he is learning the formal motions that, when actual combat occurs, will come to him naturally. Like the verbal enable action in a sequence, even though they are essentially static and abstract. Know what makes a sentence more than a random list, practice constructing sentences and explaining what you have done, and you will know how to make sentences forever and you will know too when what you are writing doesn’t make the grade because it has degenerated into a mere pile of discrete items.”

Next up to bat: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


Leave A Comment