Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing

October 30, 2020
Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing

Since the publication of his groundbreaking books WritingWithout Teachers and Writing with Power, Peter Elbowhas revolutionized how people think about writing. Now, inVernacular Eloquence, he makes a vital new contribution toboth practice and theory. The core idea is simple: we can enlistvirtues from the language activity most people findeasiest-speaking-for the language activity most people findhardest-writing. Speech, with its spontaneity, naturalness ofexpression, and fluidity of thought, has many overlooked linguisticand rhetorical merits. Through several easy to employ techniques,writers can marshal this "wisdom of the tongue" to producestronger, clearer, more natural writing. This simple idea, it turnsout, has deep repercussions. Our culture of literacy, Elbow argues,functions as though it were a plot against the spoken voice, thehuman body, vernacular language, and those without privilege-makingit harder than necessary to write with comfort or power. Givingspeech a central role in writing overturns many emptypreconceptions. It causes readers to think critically about therelationship between speech, writing, and our notion of literacy.Developing the political implications behind Elbow's previousbooks, Vernacular Eloquence makes a compelling case thatstrengthening writing and democratizing it go hand in hand.