Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Style and Writing

Always effective as a reminder and an inspirer, I’d like to quote from Strunk and White, a small but canonized gospel of writing, known to almost all. I chose it because every writer struggles with the point, and those who don’t then fall into its trap: self-conscious prose covered by a gooey and windy style. It’s no wonder why this book is read by the student and the prizewinner just the same: Thus speaketh S&W:

"Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable. The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is himself he is approaching, no other; and he should begin by turning resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style—all mannerisms, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.

"Writing is, for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in his blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up. Like other gunners, he must cultivate patience; he may have to work many covers to bring down one partridge."

2 Comments:

Anonymous Pete said...

Despite my distaste for hunting, I quite like the "wing shots" metaphor.

2/14/2006 9:31 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

So does our Vice President, who apparently sees no metaphor in it.

2/14/2006 9:53 AM  

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