Speaking of style...

Subject: Speaking of style...
From: Roy Jacobsen <rjacobse -at- GREATPLAINS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 09:16:33 -0600

Has anybody read _Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose_ by
Francis Noel-Thomas and Mark Turner? (See
-1333989-4737838 for more info.) This book goes beyond what they call the
surface details of writing (the stuff discussed in Strunk and White, for
example) and delve into the philosophical and theological underpinnings of
style. While technical writing is more often classified as practical style
than classic style, there is much good stuff in here.

Here's a bit from a review on the Amazon site:
These days, discussions of writing style are generally limited to
superficialities such as serial commas and approved abbreviations. It's a
pity. While consistency in writing does make for more pleasant reading, no
amount of rule-abiding can mask poorly wrought prose. In Clear and Simple As
the Truth, Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner argue that "writing is an
intellectual activity, not a bundle of skills." The first half of their book
is a probing examination of classic style, the form popularized by
17th-century French prose writers such as Descartes, Pascal, and Madame de
Sévigné and best typified contemporarily by much of the writing in the
pre-1985 New Yorker. The authors liken classic style to those theorems in
mathematics valued for being "brief, efficient, clear, elegant, and pure."
The classic sentence appears effortless, "as if it could have been written
in no other way," and while "the writer may speak with a technical mastery
not possessed by the reader ... his attitude is always that the reader lacks
this mastery only accidentally." While one can hardly hope to distill the
essence of classic style into a sentence, Thomas and Turner describe it most
succinctly as expression that is "clear and simple as the truth, but no
clearer or simpler."

I'd love to discuss this book with anyone.

Roy M. Jacobsen
Great Plains
rjacobse -at- greatplains -dot- com

Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth' ausgraben.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000

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