Cover image for Simple & direct : a rhetoric for writers
Simple & direct : a rhetoric for writers
Barzun, Jacques, 1907-2012.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper & Row, [1975]
Physical Description:
ix, 212 pages ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :

On Order



A fter a lifetime of writing and editing prose, Jacques Barzun has set down his view of the best ways to improve one's style. His discussions of diction, syntax, tone, meaning, composition, and revision guide the reader through the technique of making the written word clear and agreeable to read. Exercises, model passages both literary and casual, and hundreds of amusing examples of usage gone wrong show how to choose the right path to self-expression in forceful and distinctive words.

Author Notes

Jacques Barzun was born in Créteil, France on November 30, 1907. He came to the United States in 1920 and graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University in 1927. Following graduation, he joined Columbia's faculty as an instructor while continuing his studies in graduate school there, receiving a master's degree in 1928 and a doctorate in French history in 1932. He became a full professor in 1945, was dean of graduate faculties from 1955 to 1958, and dean of faculties from 1958 to 1967. He retired from Columbia University in 1975.

He was a historian and cultural critic. The core of his work was the importance of studying history to understand the present and a fundamental respect for intellect. Although he wrote on subjects as diverse as detective fiction and baseball, he was especially known for his many books on music, nineteenth-century romanticism and education. His works include Darwin, Marx and Wagner: Critique of a Heritage; Romanticism and the Modern Ego; The House of Intellect; Race: A Study in Superstition; Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers; A Stroll with William James; The Culture We Deserve; and From Dawn to Decadence. He died on October 25, 2012 at the age of 104.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Edition
I Diction, or Which Words to Use
Time Out for Good Reading I
"Working and Thinking on the Waterfront"
II Linking, or What to Put Next
Time Out for Good Reading II
"Aristotle on Detective Fiction"
III Tone and Tune, or What Impression Will It Make?
Time Out for Good Reading III
"Language Defined"
IV Meaning, or What Do I Want to Say?
Time Out for Good Reading IV
"Hints for Sawing"
V Composition, or How Does It Hang Together?
Time Out for Good Reading V
"The Law as Guarantee of Free Speech"
VI Revision, or What Have I Actually Said?
Time Out for Good Reading VI
"Two Gifted Amateurs"
VII To Use or Not to Use
Time Out for Good Reading VII
"How to Be Respected at an Inn, Hotel or Pub"
VIII Take a Little Thought
Time Out for Good Reading VIII
"Writing Less-and Better?"
Hints Toward Improving Sentences Quoted
Index of Words, Topics, and Authors