Before expounding on the elements and forms of style, there are two main questions that should be asked: What is style, and why should one be concerned with it? In answer to the first question, I believe that style is choice. One’s style is determined by the types of words he chooses, and the diction with which he displays them. A style can be casual or formal, simple or verbose; every time an author writes something, he is making decisions on how he wants to present his information. For instance, I just chose to use the pronoun ‘he’ in this paragraph, rather than ‘she,’ or the epicene ‘they.’ I made this decision feeling that by using ‘he’ I am being as clear as I can, though I know the consequence is that I may sound sexist.
The second question, why should we be concerned with style, is answered in the books The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, and Style Toward Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams. Strunk and White believed in a prescriptivist method to writing, in which writers follow many tiny grammatical rules. Conversely, Williams looks more at the ‘big picture,’ focusing more on improving writing as a whole rather than on individual rules of grammar. However, they all agree that good style is clear and intelligible, and that writers should write with their readers in mind. They believe that style is important because it affects the readers’ ability to understand and enjoy writing.
The books The Elements of Style and Style Toward Clarity and Grace are both different and alike. The authors are quite dissimilar, as are the attitudes, form, and set-up of their books. However, the authors Strunk and White and the author Joseph Williams (the writers of these two books, respectiv...
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...views as objective rules, and Williams shows his as well-supported suggestions, both books say that the best style of writing is a clear one. After all, unless one is writing strictly for himself, as in a journal, a piece of writing that alienates and confuses its readers is simply not effective, as it doesn’t properly get its message across. All three authors believe that to write is to communicate, and both books were written in the hopes of helping the reader learn how to communicate clearly and effectively. Style is choice, and good style is a result of making good choices; choices that cater to the reader, and not the author.
Strunk Jr., William, and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979.
Williams, Joseph M. Style Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
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