Wednesday, April 27, 2016

style

by Maira Kalman

"Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determined your style. If you write, you must believe - in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

Many references have been made in this book to “the reader,” who has been much in the news. It is now necessary to warn you that your concern for the reader must be pure: you must sympathize with the reader’s plight (most readers are in trouble about half the time) but never seek to know the reader’s wants. Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.

Full of belief, sustained and elevated by the power of purpose, armed with the rules of grammar, you are ready for exposure. At this point, you may well pattern yourself on the fully exposed cow of Robert Louis Stevenson’s rhyme. This friendly and commendable animal, you may recall, was “blown by all the winds that pass/And wet with all the showers.” And so must you as a young writer be. In our modern idiom, we would say that you must get wet all over. Mr. Stevenson, working in a plainer style, said it with felicity, and suddenly one cow, out of so many, received the gift of immortality. Life the steadfast writer, she is at home in the wind and the rain; and, thanks to one moment of felicity, she will live on and on and on."

Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, page 120

3 comments:

  1. "If you write, you must believe - in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message." < THIS IS SO DEEP AGGH

    ALSO ALSO I've missed reading your blog! *hugs and waffles*
    abbiee

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  2. Wow, I like that a lot. Thanks for sharing it, SW! :)

    I nominated you for the Liebster award, here:

    http://howtowatchamotionpicture.blogspot.com/2016/05/liebster-award.html

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