Good Style is a Reflection of a Writer Making Good Choices

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Good Style is a Reflection of a Writer Making Good Choices

When putting pen to paper or typing on a keyboard in order to write something, a writer makes decisions. These decisions will result in what will be the writer’s finished work and will unintentionally reflect what the writer knows about writing style. In just trying to convey his or her ideas, a writer will follow rules of grammar and spelling as well as various advice accumulated through formal and informal education. If the writer has a good understanding of what they’ve learned, it will come out in their writing. After reading William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style and Joseph M. Williams’ Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, I’ve learned that style is the culmination of many factors.

Beginning in elementary school, people learn the basic, concrete rules of grammar. These aren’t so much elements of style as they are the foundation of writing. While necessary, a person can have perfect grammar but poor style. Many of the rules mentioned in the first chapter of Strunk and White, such as, “The number of the subject determines the number of the verb,” (9) are those that remain fairly rigid. If a writer didn’t follow this rule, and the number of subject and verb didn’t match for instance, the mistake would be glaringly obvious to the reader. Williams also discusses this toward the end of his book in a section titled “Real Rules.” Here, he includes rules such as not using double negatives and not substituting adjectives for adverbs (180). These rules are the building blocks of writing and that is why a writer would be looked down upon if he or she were to break them. Therefore, when writers break rules like this, it is usually to make a point by doing so.

After these concrete rules, one begins to learn rules that are a little fuzzier in their application. These are rules that should be followed but can be broken given the right circumstances or if it is done systematically. For instance, Rule 14 in Strunk and White states, “Use the active voice.” What this means is using active verbs as opposed to inactive ones to prevent boring the reader.

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