Blackad bookshelf: a review of First You Write a Sentence, by Joe Moran

Written by Rachel McCallion

Fresh from last month’s book on decision-making, we decisively took this month’s book choice back to what we do best: writing. As you’d expect, our bookcases are creaking with titles on this topic, so we set out to find one that sounded different.

And as with anything that dares to be different, it split the crowd.

What’s it all about?

First You Write a Sentence is best described as a love letter to writing. Moran tackles seven topics, bringing his points to life with stories that aren't always about writing. This firmly places the book's focus on the art of writing, rather than the correct way to use semicolons. It’s an unpredictable and entertaining read – about everything from how history has shaped the words we use to how writing can define the way we think.

Why we loved it

Moran presents himself simply as someone who writes sentences, not a great writer or an expert on all things linguistic. That’s what makes First You Write a Sentence stand out from most other books about writing.

As fellow sentence-writers, reading this book made us feel pretty darn proud. For Moran, writers are to words what artists are to paint. Hideously narcissistic though it is, we enjoyed that.

Where it lost marks

A few rambling tangents and not enough signposting to keep the reader on track. The cryptic chapter titles make it lucky that this book is a book, and not a webpage. If it was, its SEO would need some work.

In a sentence...

Helen: “I didn’t finish the book with a sense that my writing was being policed – instead, I felt like I’d been given a lot of ‘starters for ten’ on the art of writing.”

Rachel: "It was quite motivational. I feel I can learn a lot from books like this."

Chris: “There are lots of little nuggets which supported the way we do things, or kind of made you look at them in a different light.” 

Sian: “I didn’t love it, but I think it’s a book I’ll go back to. It’s got so much in it that it’s hard to take it all in on the first read.”

Alan: “I thought there was so much in this that you could just go off and apply.”

Verdict: worth a read. 

Next steps

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