Ben Yagoda

The Sound On The Page

Style and Voice in Writing Today

HarperCollins, June 2004

Over the course of his career, acclaimed author, teacher, and critic Ben Yagoda has uncovered one certain truth about writing: “Style matters.” Indeed, it is frequently the case that our favorite writers entertain, move, and inspire us less by what they say than by how they say it.

Most books, including Strunk and White’s classic THE ELEMENT OF STYLE, take a narrow view of style, suggesting that the only proper one is of plainness, simplicity, and transparency. But tell that to David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Don DeLillo, and other stylistic risk takers!

While not a “how-to” manual, THE SOUND ON THE PAGE offers practical and incisive help for writers on identifying and developing a distinctive style and voice. Drawing on interviews with more than forty authors — Tobias Wolff, Elmore Leonard, Michael Chabon, Cristina Garcia, Dave Barry, Camille Paglia, Junot Diaz, Margaret Drabble, and Bill Bryson among them — Yagoda discusses:

*Conscious and unconscious ways writers approach style, from Bebe Moore Campbell on her pointed use of Black English to Christopher Hitchens’s penchant for adverbs

*The influence of writers on writers, including Susan Orlean on Ian Frazier, James Wolcott on Manny Farber, and Frank Kermode on William Empson

*The impact of tools on style, featuring Cynthia Ozick and Harold Bloom grumbling in harmony about the word processor and its discontents

Filled with insights from outstanding writers and close readings of their works, THE SOUND ON THE PAGE is an essential book for all aspiring and experienced writers, as well as for readers who are interested in learning how their favorite writers approach the craft.

“A stylish exploration of developing a distinctive voice and writing style.”

– Chicago Tribune

“This entertaining and instructive book should be part of any writing collection.”

– Library Journal