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Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft | [The Great Courses]

Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft

Why do some lengthy sentences flow effortlessly while others stumble along? Why are you captivated by the writing of particular authors? How can you craft sentences that reflect your unique outlook on the world? This lively, 24-lecture course introduces you to the myriad ways in which we think about, talk about, and write sentences. Reviving the sentence-oriented approach to studying writing, Professor Landon provides a greater context for what makes sentences great - and how you can apply these methods to your own writing.
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Publisher's Summary

Why do some lengthy sentences flow effortlessly while others stumble along? Why are you captivated by the writing of particular authors? How can you craft sentences that reflect your unique outlook on the world?

This lively, 24-lecture course introduces you to the myriad ways in which we think about, talk about, and write sentences. Reviving the sentence-oriented approach to studying writing, Professor Landon provides a greater context for what makes sentences great - and how you can apply these methods to your own writing.

You'll look at the kernels from which sentences grow - minimal base clauses - and how adding words or phrases creates larger, cumulative sentences that lead toward great writing. You'll explore sentence constructions that make writing more complex and add exciting levels of suspense, and see tactics that create balance and rhythm.Recognizing and appreciating these and other eye-opening aspects of sentences helps you understand the work that goes into creating an effective, pleasurable sentence, which can make you more aware of why particular lines, passages, or phrases in the poems, novels, or articles you read so enchant you.

Professor Landon draws abundantly on examples from the work of brilliant writers, including Don DeLillo, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Johnson, and more. With its passionate approach to writing and reading and its indulgence in the sheer joy of language, this journey gives you unique insights into the nature of great writing-and also teaches you how you can achieve some of this greatness yourself.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Cynthia 09-26-13
    Cynthia 09-26-13
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    "Very well presented... but with poor pronunciation"
    What made the experience of listening to Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft the most enjoyable?

    I enjoyed the presentation of the information in easily absorbed 30+ minute chapters, Mr Landon has a wonderful presence and effectively introduces the subject matter with humor and intelligent simplicity.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft?

    By breaking down, and then rebuilding well known and well written sentences, it allows you to perceive the structures involved, giving it the sense that I too could someday write!


    Any additional comments?

    The only problem concerning this lecture, is the man needs tutoring on pronunciation. Listening to him say 'senences' instead of 'sentences' repeatedly, put my teeth on edge. This was the subject of the ENTIRE lecture, and he couldn't find the 'T' within the word! Once you have latched onto such a glaring mispronunciation, you discover yourself finding more, especially when the word 'senence' is used well over a thousand times during the lecture. I understand there are many out there who will consider this nit-picking to the extreme, and many will have not even noticed, but imagine reading a book where all of the 'r's' have been omitted, it is not that much different.
    A means to purchase the notes mentioned would be nice as well.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Utah 08-16-13
    Amazon Customer Utah 08-16-13 Member Since 2009

    tired teacher

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    "Worth Listening To"

    I loved this book. Dr. Landon brings things to mind about the construction of a sentence that I had never considered before. I am very interested in writing and have done a bit of amateur writing myself. It is something I would like to do more of in the future, and having read/listened to this book, I now believe I have a better chance at being good at it.

    Dr. Landon is funny and serious, having a great way about him that holds the attention, which allows the learning to take place. This book is certainly not for everyone, but even if you do not ever intend to write an interesting sentence, being a bibliophile like I am, you may like this book because of the new, more enlightened way you are bound to read books. Hahaha, my sentences are still awkward, but now I have a pattern to follow that, with practice, will help me improve.

    I certainly intend to listen to more of the "Great Courses" series. What a great way to educate oneself.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 08-28-13
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 08-28-13 Member Since 2005
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    "good writers course"

    I've listened to many Great Courses before and now that they are on Audible it can only be good. this one was interesting for me as I like to study writing techniques and style etc as well and you gain insight not only into methods to try, but into what makes some of the great writers great. there are many excellent quotations from famous writers that make me want to read them more if i haven't already.

    one good thing about these courses is that you can do the lessons/lectures one at a time and come back after something else and continue, or do them several together.

    the only thing i would change is the little intro/exit announcement and applause needs to go. and i would like to see at least a pdf of materials referred to if not the actual sentences quoted.

    will listen again to this and plan to get others.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris PA 10-05-13
    Chris PA 10-05-13
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    "Too many words. Not enough Ts."
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brooks Landon?

    The professor talks too much. Without a course book, I found it difficult to follow him when he cited examples on building longer sentences. Oh yeah, he consistently mispronounced the word sentence as senence or sinence. It drove me up the freakin' wall.No, I wouldn't try another course with this professor.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Learn to explain his topic concisely. The prof. expressed his misgivings about The Elements of Style, a manual which teaches concise writing. He should revisit this book.


    Do you think Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    It needs a substitute course on the same subject with a different prof.


    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 11-07-13
    Robert 11-07-13
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    "Write longer sentences and throw out "The Rules"."
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brooks Landon?

    I would listen to another of the great courses, but not another by Prof. Landon.


    If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

    NA


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Brooks Landon?

    Really any professional narrator would have greatly improved the audiobook. While some listeners were bothered by his accent and pronunciation, what really drove me to the brink of abandoning the program was his constant amusement at his own writing, amusement evidenced by involuntary little giggles, tiny chuffs of air really, that precede the first word in a clause and that signal to the reader that the author, prescient of the clever wordplay about to be communicated, is on the verge of some tidbit of witty banter. Unfortunately, most of the time, these linguistic gems fail to deliver the goods hinted at by the author's little chuckle. Like the pronunciation problems that some reviewers have mentioned, these mini giggles, once I had focused in on them, became a persistent source of exasperation as I listened.


    Any additional comments?

    The material is quite good and I believe it would be useful to a broad spectrum of developing writers. There is enough good advice and information to have filled 5 hours. Unfortunately, the course is more than double that. The extra time is taken up with repeating the valid points over and over again as well as by reciting mind-numbing strings of alternate sentence constructions. For example, if the point is that a sentence with a base clause and four free modifying clauses can be rearranged in any order, the author actually spends several minutes rearranging the clauses to demonstrate the point. Even the slowest pupil would have gotten the point after the third or fourth alternate version, but on they go.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tyler London, ON, Canada 11-17-13
    Tyler London, ON, Canada 11-17-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Has some valuable information, but it felt a bit l"
    If you could sum up Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft in three words, what would they be?

    Detail, extension, and retooling.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The most interesting aspect of this lecture series is probably its initial focus on extending your sentences. It goes into great detail on the subject, and really gets you thinking about how to approach each sentence you write. Not really a huge revelation, but still really interesting, and probably something you never thought too much about.

    As for the least interesting part, well that would probably be the fact that its just too long. In the second half things start to get less and less interesting, to the point where I just zoned out and stopped really paying attention.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Some people just have a natural talent for captivating an audiences attention, and professors are generally not in that camp. He did an ok job. I'm not really sure he could have done anything to make it better.


    What did you learn from Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft that you would use in your daily life?

    Probably nothing, that is to say unless you're a writer or have a passions for writing. I guess if you wanted to explore or expand upon your writing this may have same daily use value, but I think its more directed at people who like to write stories and what not.


    Any additional comments?

    If your interested in writing give it a go, you'll probably get something valuable out of it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ddsharper Los Angeles, CA 05-10-14
    ddsharper Los Angeles, CA 05-10-14 Member Since 2000
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    "Great Lessons If You are Ready for them"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft to be better than the print version?

    Cannot say, since I don't have the print version.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not applicable- non fiction book


    What does Professor Brooks Landon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I don't know


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    not applicable


    Any additional comments?

    I have listened to this book over and over throughout the years, having first downloaded the series from the Great Courses website, and as I gain in knowledge, about the writing craft, I find this series more and more valuable to my growth as a writer, picking up new details I'd previously missed, with each listen. For those who find the lectures too pedantic, I'd suggest checking out Writing123 dot com, which too is based upon the same concepts presented in this series, as laid out by Francis Christensen. You will get a simpler graded set of lessons to help you master the cumulative sentence structure. This is a college level course, and the professor has to present a complete background in order to make it academic, but the 123 website, on the other hand, offers a simpler road to the treasure,The brilliance of this book is in the details, and details are perfect for the writer-philosopher. Please do not rush through the lessons, but instead, take one at a time, then master the concepts, and then move on to the next lesson. That is my opinion on how to best gain from this audible book. Have paper and pen at hand.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sebastien Daoust Montreal, Canada 02-13-14
    Sebastien Daoust Montreal, Canada 02-13-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent for "would be" authors"
    What made the experience of listening to Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft the most enjoyable?

    It's an excellent for people who like to write, but never had the chance to actually study this craft at a college/university level. Even as a non-native english speaker, I found the class easily understandable, and most of the examples given by the teacher were clear and easy to grasp.


    What other book might you compare Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft to and why?

    First class-type for me. Wouldn't know.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Brooks Landon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    It's a class. But I guess the class is divided into two main parts. The first one, more easily to catch, takes about half of the class, and teaches about cumulative sentences. It's an excellent introduction, though perhaps it's a little bit long.

    The second part is an amalgamation of different styles, which might not always have a logical line to follow. Despite that, the rich examples of the professor helps the student understand many subtleties.


    Any additional comments?

    I had bought this class in a video format at first, and couldn't find the patience to actually sit down and simply watch.

    The audio version, if you have a long road to travel, or an easy mindless commute, is perfect. You might be missing some of the more graphical elements (for example, the different sentences levels), but in general, it's easy to understand. You do need to focus, however, so if you're the type of person to easily let your mind wander by driving, for example, this might not be for you.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 09-22-13
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 09-22-13
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    "I appreciate long sentences more now"

    I am not a writer, but I bought this book because I am curious about how writers craft sentences. As the author clarifies early in the first chapter, this book is actually about building good LONG sentences. He explains how good, long, sustaining sentences are built. He cites many good examples from current and past writers. Some of the analytical observations and technical terms used to describe certain approaches in building sentences are bit too much for me, and I somehow doubt that Hemingway and other great writers studied these technical aspects of writing, but the materials covered in this book are still fascinating to me, and I now appreciate long sentences more. One small issue for me was that it took me some time to get used to this professor's tone of voice and his accents. You might want to check out the sample to hear his voice first to see if you are comfortable listening to the sound for 12 hours.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doubting Tim 11-01-13

    Tim

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    "Building better SENNENCES"
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Brooks Landon?

    Yes -- have bought several and will buy more.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I think another reader of the professor's material -- one with a more subtly nuanced and inflected voice, without the Texan (or whatever it is) trouble with consonants and torturing of vowels, might be better. As it is, I am now using it to get me off to sleep at night (being a bit of an insomniac). I am hoping for subliminal learning! There was a VERY long-winded introduction that stated a lot of very obvious things. Examples are multiplied ad nauseam - so the good prof. reels off long strings of restatements and so on, and so on .... The words tend to merge into a mass of ... well, 'sennences'. There are no clear pauses and it becomes quite hard to listen to him to extract the meaning. These 'sennences' are often very long and convoluted -- better suited to the written word. For example he reads a sennence then says the proposition "might have been implied or acknowledged by writing this sennence in a number of different ways ... [he then reads off what seems like 20 variants of the same sentences, each with slightly different propositions] -- yeah, OK, OK, we get it."

    The underlying work (Port Royal Grammar, Chomsky, historical snippets etc) is really interesting but don't get much air time.


    What three words best describe Professor Brooks Landon’s performance?

    tedious soporific sennences


    Was Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft worth the listening time?

    Not sure yet -- still getting through it. Better as a book to read, perhaps. Especially all the readings of sentence variant after sentence variant. When you are READING, you skip over these at faster speed, just getting the gist. Here you have to sit there while he reads every one out to you.


    Any additional comments?

    I suppose 'Dubbya' for W, 'sennences' for sentences, 'idennifying' for identifying, and the rest are just regional dialects in the US, and thus seen as OK, but to an outsider they sound illiterate, or irritating at best, because the diction is not precise. This is exacerbated by the fact that precision in WRITTEN language is the goal of the course. I am not calling fore British Received Pronunciation, you understand -- just that this imprecise-sounding dialect is a pity in a book about writing. If it doesn't bother you, fine. But if hearing the word "sennence" makes you want to slit your wrists after about the tenth time, be warned, there are about 63,000 of them. OMG! In Part 1 Chapter 3 at somewhere around 1:30.00 he says SENTENCE very clearly! With a T! There might be hope.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
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