Thursday, November 18, 2010

Topic: Writing Style

10-second review: Some thoughts on writing style.

Quote: “A writers style should not place obstacles between his ideas and the minds of his readers.” Steve Allen. Writer’s Digest magazine.

Quote: “Rewriting is … a constant attempt on my part to make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless.” James Thurber. Cowley, Writers at Work.

Quote: “Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Quote: “Clutter is the disease of American writing… a society strangling on unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Quote: “[Herbert] Spencer…defined writing style as that which requires the least effort of understanding.” Will Durant. The Story of Philosophy.”

Comment: My professional English education journals write a lot about the individual nature of writing style. They say that students should find their own writing style and that teachers should not interfere with it. Their articles will point to the simplicity of Hemingway’s writing and the complexity of Faulkner’s. But that is literature.

When writing in most nonfiction prose, I define style as—The reader starts to read and continues reading as if compelled, without obstructions, from idea to idea through the concluding paragraph. When writers achieve that compulsion to read from beginning to end—once you start, you can’t stop—I know that the writer’s style has put up no obstruction to my understanding of the ideas. That’s good writing—and good writing style, in exposition, persuasion and argumentation. RayS.

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