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Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft

Narrated by: Brooks Landon
Length: 12 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

learnt a lot

as a primary school teacher it was very informative. it was quite high level, but I found some key takeaway points I can use to improve my teaching.

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  • Kazuhiko
  • 22-09-2013

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.

26 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Darryl
  • 28-08-2013

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.

34 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Sher from Provo
  • 16-08-2013

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.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • ddsharper
  • 10-05-2014

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.

40 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • 07-11-2013

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.

40 of 48 people found this review helpful

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  • Cynthia
  • 26-09-2013

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.

42 of 51 people found this review helpful

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  • Sebastien Daoust
  • 13-02-2014

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.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • 101
  • 17-11-2013

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.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • 922Vision
  • 14-08-2018

Torture until chapter 11, then golden!

As is often the case in life, one must live through a bit of pain to get to the good stuff. Such is the case, I found, with this fine coarse. Everything after chapter 10 is a treasure, so live through the prior to get to the later and you won't regret it. 😊👍

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Hedrick
  • 20-12-2015

Good info, bit dull

I wanted to try one of these educational series books. Had some good info but over all a very hard listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kitty cat 17
  • 24-08-2017

Couldn't listen to this

Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Brooks Landon?
Not by this narrator. I had to stop after ten minutes due to the mis-pronunciation. For an audio book all about sentences you could at least pronounce the word correctly! There is a 't' in it so why say 'sen-ance-ees'. It was so irritating I switched off.

Has Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft put you off other books in this genre?
Not really. I still enjoy books about language and writing. Just not this one!

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Brooks Landon’s performances?
No! See my statement above re the pronunciation of sentences. It was infuriating!

Do you think Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
Yes by someone who knows how to say sentences.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Dottie
  • 09-04-2016

How to write a sennanse!

I have arrived at chapter 8; I feel this is an achievement. A pretty hefty achievement because the narrator is punching my brain with side swipes in his pronunciation.

The word is sentence so why does he insist on pronouncing it as SENNANSE?

My head hurts!

Otherwise, pretty good.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • hearne
  • 01-03-2017

If you learn through Repetition then this for you

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The content - make it snappy, it seems as if the authors want to make books longer as well as sentences.

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

Nothing really

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Not the narrator as much as the looped clap tape

Could you see Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No

Any additional comments?

Aimed at at 14 to 15 year olds

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • sin sin minkin
  • 11-01-2017

Poor advice

There are some decent hints in here but overall he hits the same wring headed nail so many times I could stand it no longer.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Pen Name
  • 25-02-2019

Technical and detailed

Delivered with an intensity and passion for the subject, soaked in technical detail, this course is inspiring for people like myself; who cannot write for toffee.

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  • I. P. Gearing
  • 19-01-2019

technical but very interesting

A very broad subject explored meaningfully and amply illustrated a good listen for the student of writing

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  • Chong Beng Lim
  • 17-07-2018

The best audio book about writing

Building Great Sentences is the best book or lectures I have ever come across. It is easy to follow and be understood. Professor Landon rendered the lectures with clarity, fun, and eloquence. They were enriched with a wealth of writing wisdom that had been culled from an eclectic mix of sources. It is a must read for aspiring writers.

There is only one imperfection in that I would like to see how cumulative sentences could be applied to nonfiction writing.

All in all, it's worth a five-star performance. Thank you professor Brooks Landon!

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  • mel
  • 23-09-2015

Very good

What did you like most about Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft?

It goes to the nuts and bolts of building a sentence.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There was none.

Which character – as performed by Professor Brooks Landon – was your favourite?

Himself

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

Well worth listening to.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful