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Good Style Is A Reflection Of A Writer Making Good Choices

1161 words - 5 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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. However, even Strunk and White admit that this rule isn’t always to be followed because using a passive voice can contribute to a more normal flow of a sentence (18). In this case, it is the writer’s responsibility to identify if the application of this rule is necessary and/or will contribute to the overall effectiveness of the piece. Generally the writer may want to follow this particular rule, but breaking it won’t immediately destroy the writer’s credibility. (Unless of course, it is obvious that the writer broke the rule unintentionally.) This illustrates how the writer begins to have more control over the choices made when adhering to the rules in writing.

From there, the writing student moves on to an area more aptly referred to as “advice.” None of these are set in stone, nor do they have to be followed ever if the writer doesn’t see it in their best interest. Much of Strunk and White, and even Williams, focus on advice to make one’s writing stronger. Advice on writing includes how the rules can be applied to make a person’s writing stronger. For example, Williams gives many bits of advice on how to achieve clarity when writing (17-43). Making sure the reader understands the writer’s point is most often the goal of writing, which is why clarity is so important. However, if an individual writer already writes exceptionally clear, without using the methods offered in Williams’ set of advice, then this writer has little need to use this advice. This is not to say that the writer should disregard the advice entirely. In writing there is always room for improvement and it is up to the writer to determine if certain advice will help or hinder their own writing.

Good style then, is utilizing the basic rules, the fuzzy rules, and the advice in conjunction. There is still more to it than that though. In his chapter on elegance, Williams says, “knowing the ingredients and knowing how to use them is the difference between reading a cookbook and Cooking,” (153). What Williams is trying to say with this analogy is that simply knowing all the rules of writing...

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