Tips and tools: How to write great sentences; Jeff Bezos’s 2017 letter; a funny book; and the best programming books

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Last updated: November 2019

Here are some great resources we have recently shared with one another

(We don’t profit from recommending things. We just love sharing things we think you’ll appreciate. You can see our other Tips and Tools articles here.)

The Elements of Eloquence

The Elements of Eloquence: an invaluable book for anyone who writes.

Brilliance and inspiration from Amazon’s CEO

Jeff Bezos’s letters always provide incredible insights into how to run a hugely successful company. This year’s is no exception. Wise words from one of the world’s greatest, most sophisticated web marketers.

(If you love Jeff Bezos’s quotes as much as we do, also take a look at A rare insight into Amazon’s experimental culture and The 20 smartest things Jeff Bezos has ever said.)

The best guide to writing great sentences

If your job involves writing great sentences—and which jobs don’t these days?—you need to know about rhetorical devices. They appear in almost all great writing (particularly poetry, song lyrics, and marketing slogans).

The book The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth explains how incredibly powerful rhetorical devices are. Shakespeare’s early plays contain almost no rhetorical devices and almost no famous quotes. The watershed moment for Shakespeare was when he started to use rhetorical devices.

The Elements of Eloquence is one of those books that makes you wonder, “How come they resisted teaching me that at school? Did my teachers just not know this stuff?” Dickens certainly did. So did Dylan and Dolly Parton.

Rhetorical devices make sentences sound smarter. Smarter sentences sound more true. True sentences are more persuasive. And persuasive sentences drive profits.

That last paragraph was an example of anadiplosis, which is where you start a sentence with the ending of the previous sentence. The technique is so powerful, it can make a mediocre message like the one above (“rhetorical devices help to increase profits”) sound profound.

Unlike many educational books, The Elements of Eloquence works great as an audiobook. We’ve added it to our list of the best resources for improving your writing.

A great, funny travel book

In 2009, when we spoke at Mozcon, we had the pleasure of spending time with Geraldine DeRuiter, who had recently started her travel blog The Everywhereist (which became one of TIME’s “Best Blogs of the Year”).

Geraldine is one of the funniest people we’ve ever met. She has a knack of finding herself in ridiculous situations, which she describes in her first book, All Over The Place, which we are currently enjoying. It’s very wittily written; we notice that almost every one of Geraldine’s laugh-out-loud moments incorporates a rhetorical device.

The best books on programming lists the books that get mentioned most on Stack Overflow. Most of them are evergreen classics. You might want to forward the list to your developers.

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