Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence & Captivating Readers by Barbara Baig (Writer’s Digest Books, $19.99, paperback 9781599639154, August 7, 2015)
In Spellbinding Sentences, Barbara Baig offers writers a new set of tools to improve their writing. She understands that the only way to use words precisely is to know them intimately and she helps readers gain the necessary skills through practical exercises. Free writing, vocabulary building, and the study of the dictionary and thesaurus are just a few of the many methods she employs to help readers broaden their language skills. She analyzes the quality of words, whether they are formal or informal, generic or specific, or abstract or concrete, and the subtle differences found in the connotations of synonyms. Sensory details are explored at length before Baig offers an extensive section on grammar. This is more than a refresher course for those who’ve forgotten the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb. Baig delves deeply into each part of speech and shows how they work separately and together as building blocks toward simple and complex sentences. Her analysis is similar to diagramming sentences, but without the pictorial framework which was always a part of that old-school task. Charts illustrating sentence patterns help break down the complexity of sentence construction, making it feel simple to plug in nouns, verbs, etc. to create compelling sentences full of modifiers or independent clauses. The author also offers numerous examples to illustrate her points. Baig’s methods are straightforward, practical, and highly achievable as long as one is ready to sit down and work. The book is not a quick read, but one that should be visited on a regular basis, like a school course, with each exercise building on the previous one. As Baig writes, “Mastery of diction and syntax enables you to wield a kind of magical power over the minds of your readers.” For those willing to set aside time to proceed through each task, the rewards will be found in controlling that magical power with ease and finesse.
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