Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Elements of Eloquence

My new book, The Elements of Eloquence, is currently being printed somewhere in darkest, deepest Sussex and will arrive in the bookshops in early November.

It's not about etymology, and it's not about strange words. It's about the figures of rhetoric.

The figures of rhetoric were a series of formulas devised by the Ancient Greeks for writing beautiful, memorable lines. They weren't plucked out of nothing, of course. They started out by looking at lines that were already famous and seeing what they had in common. So you take:

Bond, James Bond.

And you wonder to yourself why it's such a famous line. It is, after all, just a chap's name. It doesn't actually say anything more than "My name is Mr James Bond". It just says it better. Why?

Well, then you take:

To be or not to be

And you wonder why Shakespeare didn't say "Whether or not to be". Would have said the same thing. And then you take:

O captain! My captain!
Crisis? What crisis?
Zed's dead, baby, Zed's dead.
Yeah, baby, yeah!
Events, dear boy. Events.
Fly, my pretties! Fly!

And you start to see a pattern. In fact, you can't believe that you never noticed the pattern before. But that's only because the phrases were never stacked up next to each other like that. The Ancient Greeks noticed that pattern: this-that-this. They called it diacope.

Unfortunately, the figures of rhetoric don't get taught in schools any more. They used to be. Shakespeare would have had to learn them all by heart. But now, they're largely unknown. So I wrote a book.

The Elements of Eloquence has one chapter on each figure, showing how it works, what effects it can have, and what lines it has made famous. It'll be in the shops on the 7th of November (in Britain that is).

I hope you like it, dear reader, I hope you like it.

And such a pretty cover.


  1. Just pre-ordered here in the US!

  2. Lovely book. I didn't know Beardsley was still doing designs for covers.

    Remember, the 7th of November, remember.

  3. All I want for Christmas is this book!

  4. This sounds brilliant! I work at a lovely Sussex bookshop when I'm at home, and I'm certain your new book will be stocked (alongside 20 other copies for good measure, I expect). It will certainly be on my Christmas list - thank you for the wonderful writing!

  5. My name is Janet Thomson and I'm the Event Coordinator at The Freelance Writers Den. Carol Tice would like for you to speak to our 1000+ paid members for an upcoming podcast in November.

    1. If you get in touch with Henry Lord at Icon Books, he's in charge of my schedule till Christmas.

  6. Looking forward to this. Recommended by Amazon some weeks ago, after reading a few things by Arthur Plotnik and Constance Hale. Glad I found it. Pre-ordered.