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Championship Writing: 50 ways to improve your writing, Paula LaRocque, Marion Street Press, Inc, 2000, 204 pps., $18.95

"Knowledge isn't worth much if we can't convey it to others." This truism is the basis for acclaimed writing coach Paula LaRocque's new book, a handy tool for helping writers of all kinds be more understandable and understood.

Championship Writing isn't your everyday grammar and composition book. It's a testimony for clear, concise writing, which many resist either because they have been poorly educated and have not mastered Standard English, or because they "don't want to do the thoughtful, careful work that clear writing demands." This latter group, notes LaRocque, wants the reader to do the work. Many writers have been rewarded by academe for "stiff, dense, pretentious" writing, "glutted with gobbledygook and arcane phrasing."

LaRocque notes that our education system often wrongly teaches us to make a distinction between formal and informal communication, and that formal is superior. "The result," she states, "is a professional world that spouts stiff, pompous, abstract and often meaningless jargon." What most people need to improve, she contends, is their capacity to be storytellers.

"We've all seen examples of academic gibberish," LaRocque writes. "The educated often bring academe's heavy and unconversational writing style into the workplace, and it is unwelcome."

Championship Writing isn't just for writers and aspiring writers, but for everyone who puts pen to paper or types into a computer terminal. She describes such literary horrors as what she calls "octopus writing" - which "sinks readers in a sea of words" - as well as sentence clutter, wordiness, use of "fadspeak," and overwriting. She discusses the "building blocks of sen-tences"and demonstrates how short words and simple phrases usually communicate best.

Championship Writing delivers what its title promises. It is packed with examples, tips, tricks of the trade and, yes, it's easy and interesting to read. This book should be in every English professor's desk, on top of every bus-inessperson's desk, and in home offices and libraries everywhere.

Contact Marion Street Press, P.O. Box 2249, Oak Park, IL 60303, (708) 445-8330, www.marionstreetpress.com.

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