Does Meaning matter? Or does Style rule?

A response to Mark Forsyth's new book, “Elements Of Eloquence” by Giles Abbott

“You don’t need to have anything to say, you just have to say it well”. So says a reviewer in summary of Mark Forsyth’s new book, “The Elements Of Eloquence”. Style: One, Substance: Nil, apparently.

I heard about this book on the Today Programme, Monday 11th November 2013 at around 8:30am. The author detailed how he has studied certain rhetorical figures and teaches readers how to use them to create the perfect English phrase. He points out that such techniques were widely taught in Europe until roughly a hundred years ago. This is true. He points out that this is how Shakespeare learnt his craft as a writer. This is true. He says that anyone can learn these techniques. This is true. He says it doesn’t matter what you say, but only how you say it. This is not true. Disguised in flippancy, this is a seductive, but grievous, lie.     

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