The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsythe – Book Review

English. Complex language, no doubt. Beautiful language, absolutely.

Many of my foreign friends I’ve spoken with in the past have always unleashed their fury towards the English language, upon my inquiry over their progress with it.

‘Why do pronunciations change like from ‘laughter’ to ‘slaughter’?

‘Why do some letters sound different when placed in different words like ‘c’ in ‘car’ and ‘c’ in ‘bicycle’?

‘Why do silent letters exist?’

Please be aware I’m in no way trying to deny the claims that English is a hard language. But to say it is an ugly language, I will wholeheartedly disagree.

Within the English language, there exists many phrases that are widely known simply because of how iconic and memorable they are. No, I’m not talking about idioms. But rather, one-liners like:

‘The name’s Bond. James Bond’

‘All for one and one for all!’

‘I came; I saw; I conquered.’

‘Roses are red, Violets are blue’

It’s safe to assume that almost every English speaker has heard of at least one of these great lines. They roll off the tongue easily, stand out, and engrave themselves into the mind.

But, ladies and gentlemen, what in the world actually makes these wonderful one-liners so weirdly worthy of winding up in our memory? What gives these phrases the beautiful touch of magic and pizazz that causes them to strike out from the rest of the script? What is the secret? What is the mystery? What, is the answer?

Well, as it turns out, it’s actually quite simple; rhetorics. Or rather, classic rhetorics.

When trying to employ techniques to empower our writing, we use rhetorics. When we need to add something to make a phrase or sentence stand out, we use rhetorics. When we want to change a dull sentence into a literary masterpiece with just a few lines or words, we use rhetorics.

It’s not hard, using classic rhetoric devices, it’s not hard, as Mark Forsythe cleverly and wittily outlines in this magnificent book. Filled to the brim with intimate knowledge of all sorts of literature, Forsythe carefully dissects the most striking lines and phrases and shows us why they strike out, all while keeping a silly and amused smile on our faces.

From Shakespeare to U.S presidents, Forsythe gives a rundown on how to write like some of the most iconic poets, playwrights, and writers the world has ever seen. He shows how to deploy the best rhetorical devices to write the perfect lines and phrases; essentially giving your writing a boost with steroids.

From epizeuxis to anaphora, to syllepsis and epistrophe, we are shown the true heroes that have crafted the one line masterpieces we know of today.

This is an absolute must-read for everyone from all walk of life and all sorts of disciplines, highly recommended.


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