First You Write a Sentence.
Joe Moran

Book cover image

Narrated By: Roy McMillan

Duration: 8 hours and 14 minutes

What to expect

Penguin presents the audiobook edition if First You Write a Sentence by Joe Moran, read by Roy McMillan.

The sentence is the common ground where every writer walks. A poet writes in sentences, but so does the unsung author who came up with Items trapped in doors cause delays. A good sentence can be written (and read) by anyone if we simply give it the gift of our time, and it is as close as most of us will get to making something truly beautiful.

Enter acclaimed author Professor Joe Moran. Using minimal technical terms, First You Write a Sentence is his unpedantic but authoritative explanation of how the most ordinary words can be turned into verbal constellations of extraordinary grace. Using sources ranging from the Bible and Shakespeare to George Orwell and Maggie Nelson, and scientific studies of what can best fire the reader's mind, he shows how we can all write in a way that is clear, compelling and alive.

Whether dealing with finding the ideal word, building a sentence or constructing a paragraph, First You Write a Sentence informs by light example: much richer than a style guide, it can be read not just for instruction but for pleasure and delight. And along the way it shows how good writing can help us notice the world, make ourselves known to others and live more meaningful lives. It's an elegant gem in praise of the English sentence.

A style guide by stealth - how anyone can write well (and can enjoy good writing)

'Moran is a past master at producing fine, accessible non-fiction.'
- Helen Davies, Sunday Times

'Joe Moran has a genius for turning the prosaic poetic' - Peter Hennessy


Creative writing & creative writing guides, Writing & editing guides, Semantics, discourse analysis, stylistics, Grammar, syntax & morphology

Listen to a sample

Moran is a wonderful, witty writer, and here he surpasses himself

Daily Mail

Joe Moran is a wonderfully sharp writer, calm, precise and quietly comical . . . Moran's own sentences are perfect advertisements for the aims they espouse

Mail on Sunday

Humane and witty . . . as a primer in generous and lively writing, First You Write a Sentence is blithe and convincing

New York Times

Thoughtful, engaging, and lively exposé of the quirks and beauties of the full sentence . . . It's a style guide by stealth: when you've read it, you realise you've changed your attitude to writing (and reading).

John Simpson, formerly Chief Editor of the OED and author of The Word Detective

Moran has fast become Britain's foremost explorer and explainer of the disregarded

Juliet Gardiner, author of 'Wartime: Britain 1939-1945'

Moran's genius is to show us what was right in front of us all along

Bee Wilson

Thoughtful reflections on how to write well

Guardian Review

Whether you're composing an ad for a shop or embarking on your first literary masterpiece, it is indispensable. As an inspiration to savour every encounter, to train your lazy brain to be alert to a beautifully devised phrase, a poetic alleviation, a mood-changing bon mot, it is even more rewarding

Big Issue

Moran is a past master at producing fine, accessible non-fiction. His trick is to take what might be considered a perfectly ordinary behaviour ... and uncover fact after fascinating fact

Sunday Times

Joe Moran is the most perceptive and original observer of British life that we have

Matthew Engel

Joe Moran has a genius for turning the prosaic poetic

Peter Hennessy

Exquisite...Moran's own sentences are so deliciously epigrammatic that I considered giving up chocolate in favour of re-reading his book...He is more mentor than instructor


Compelling . . . There's plenty in Moran's book to delight grammar and language nerds

The Spectator

What a lovely thing this is: a book that delights in the sheer textural joy of good sentences. Joe Moran has written a book about writing that is itself a collection of sentences to inspire, divert and console. Any aspiring writer should read it, if only to be reminded how crazily hard it is to write words 'in such a way that they can be deciphered in your absence'

Bee Wilson

Joe Moran is a wonderfully gifted social historian...he has the poet's ability to find the remarkable in the commonplace

Craig Brown

Moran is a past master at producing fine, accessible non-fiction.