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Vernacular Eloquence

What Speech Can Bring to Writing

Peter Elbow

23 February 2012

ISBN: 9780199782512

456 pages

Price: £14.99



A writing guide for the twenty-first century, Vernacular Eloquence explores how the variety of ways the spoken word can enhance the written word, drawing on examples from blogs, email, and other recent trends.

  • Authored by bestselling teacher of writing: Elbow's gift for clarity and easy-to-follow explanations has made him the go-to figure for a generation of writers and teachers
  • Written in an engaging, jargon-free prose: broken down into easily digestible chunks, it offers clear-cut, concrete instructions on using everyday speech to improve prose
  • A writing guide for the twenty-first century: explores speech in relation to email, blogs, and other new platforms for writing

About the Author(s)

Peter Elbow, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Peter Elbow is Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he also directed the Writing Program from 1996 until 2000. He is the author of Writing Without Teachers (Oxford UP 1973), Writing With Power (Oxford UP 1981), Embracing Contraries (Oxford UP, 1986), Everyone Can Write (Oxford UP, 2000), and Being A Writer (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

Table of Contents

    PART ONE. What's Best in Speaking And Writing?
    Introduction: Defining "Speech" and "Writing"
    1. Speech and Writing as They Are Used: The Role of Culture
    2. What's Good about Writing
    3. Speaking as a Process: What Can It Offer Writing?
    4. Speech as a Product: Eight Virtues in Careless Spoken Language that Careful Writing Needs
    5. Intonation: A Virtue for Writing Found at the Root of Everyday Speech
    6. Can We Really Have the Best of Both Worlds?
    PART TWO. A Role for the Tongue During the Early Stages of Writing: Treating Speech as Writing
    Introduction: More Defining
    7. What is Speaking Onto the Page and How Does Freewriting Teach it?
    8. Where Else Do We See Unplanned Speaking onto the Page?
    9. Objections to Speaking onto the Page—And Responses
    10. The Need for Care: Unplanned Speaking onto the Page is Never Enough
    PART THREE. A Role for the Tongue During Late Revising: Reading Aloud and Treating Writing as Speech
    11. Revising by Reading Aloud. What the Mouth and the Ear Know
    12. How Does Revising by Reading Aloud Actually Work?
    13. Punctuation: Living with Two Traditions
    14. Good Enough Punctuation by Reading Aloud and Listening
    15. How Speech Can Improve Organization in Writing: Form as Energy
    16. Summary Chapter: The Benefits of Speaking onto the Page and Reading Aloud
    PART FOUR. Vernacular Literacy
    Introduction: Dante and Vulgar Eloquence
    17. Our Present Culture of Proper Literacy and How It Tries To Exclude Speech
    18. A New Culture of Vernacular Literacy is on the Horizon
    Appendix I. How Freewriting Went from Dangerous to No Big Deal in the Composition and Rhetoric Community
    Appendix II. A list of Publications Written in Nonprestige Nonstandard Versions of English
    Appendix III. A List of Published Works by Peter Elbow


"Elbow is his own best argument for speaking onto the page: His voice is both authoritative and affable, conversational and professorial." - Erin McKean, International Herald Tribune