The Importance of Style
If there’s one thing that this class has taught me, it’s that one of the single most important aspect to consider in writing, is that of the style. Style can be defined many ways, whether it be an analysis of oneÂ’s writing proficiency and technical accuracy, or the writerÂ’s voice, and how they bring across their message to the readers. Without style, all writing becomes at least one of two things: a boring, dragging piece whose clipped pace turns the reader totally off, or it becomes so poorly written that the question of the author’s intelligence comes into play while reading the piece.
While I could easily say simply that style is the most important aspect
of writing, that would be far too much of an oversimplification. There are many individual pieces that make style what it is. In fact, whole books have been written solely on that subject, such as "Style Toward Clarity
and Grace" by Joseph M. Williams, or "The Elements of Style
" by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. These texts try to pin down exactly what are the key points that make a successful style, as opposed to one not as well crafted, just as the purpose of this essay is.
The first thing I think of when I try to define good styles of writing is a knack for grammar and vocabulary. These are the most important aspects of writing when it comes to getting oneÂ’s message across. Without proper grammar, confusion and misinterpretation reign supreme. Strunk and White feature an entire chapter exclusively to the practice of using the correct grammar (Strunk and White chapter 4). Williams, meanwhile feels that the rules are not necessary to dwell on ever, and breaks rules down into three ways: rules that "No native speaker of English has to think about", rules that educated writers only think about "when they see or hear them violated" and finally, rules that are apparently there for grammarians to find faults in writing, and that educated writers generally accept that these rules can be ignored (Williams 176).
If nothing else, this dichotomy in policies from several sources is totally indicative of the very nature of writing itself. Writing has existed for thousands of years, and it seems like at least once a generation, the general acceptance of rules, and even which rules are applicable change dramatically. English as recent as a few hundred years ago is on many occasions practically indecipherable when viewed with the standards used on the current system of writings. While grammar may be important in style, and the first thing I personally think of when I think of well written words, it is far too subjective of a quantifier to think of as the most important piece of style.
A far more important aspect of creating a justifiably good style of writing is how much a piece can retain a sense of coherence. It is easy for a writer to just jumble all of their thoughts out onto the page, not making an attempt to ensure that the reader understands anything written. It takes someone with real style meanwhile, to write a series of sentences, and have it be absolutely clear to whomever has the chance to read it.
Without cohesion, there is almost no point to writing, and the author may as well hang up his pen, as the only one to understand his writing would be himself. Yet this does not mean that simply because an author can construct a well formed sentence that he suddenly has mastered the art of cohesion. Rather the opposite, in fact. Williams writes "...there is more to readable writing than local clarity. A series of clear sentences can still be confusing if we fail to design the to fit their context, to reflect a consistent point of view, to emphasize our most important ideas" (Williams 45). What Williams is trying to say here is that cohesion is a concept that must stretch throughout the entire document if the cohesive elements, or even the document as a whole is to have any purpose at all.
To top that off further, the sentences must be arranged and strung together in a way that emphasizes the point of the article. For example, in my blog located at http://choconado.blogspace.com, I have an entry in which I revise a portion of the Eastern Michigan University undergraduate catalog. In it, there is a sentence extolling the virtues of the area surrounding Eastern, and the resources they provide for the student body. The way that the catalog phrases it ends with a stress on the nearby University of Michigan, when obviously the page wishes instead to stress that the student body at Eastern in particular has a strong amount of resources to draw upon. I corrected this phrase by simply rearranging the wording to finish off at the stressed point, as illustrated in WilliamsÂ’s book on page 68, in which he says to "Shift less important information to the left."
Then finally, there is the part of style which is the dearest to my personal interests, the more artistic definition of style. I personally believe that this vein of creativity can solely come from within. No single person can even hope to persuade others to be creative in the exact ways they intend to, any more than any one person can convince people to think in the precise way they intend and none other.
Williams, meanwhile, in his ninth chapter, the one titled "Elegance", believes that artistic style is indeed something that can be taught, and that the very turn of phrase that can be identified as a particular style or personal trademark is a learned trait, rather than one that is distinctly unique and created by the individual.
Of course, what you, the reader takes from the lessons given in a book as to what makes one style better than the other is up to you. I personally feel that there are merits to any individual analysis, and that all should be considered with the same scrutiny. Style is, after all, the part of the author that makes writing an art, and not merely a set of directions, to be replicated over and over again by those that follow in the authorÂ’s footsteps.
Strunk, William Jr., White, E. B., The Elements of Style. Needham Heights, Massachusetts. Allyn & Bacon. 2000.
Williams, Joseph M., Style: Toward Clarity And Grace. Chicago, Illinois. University of Chicago Press. 1990.