Good Writing Style and English Skill

Published on April 6th, 2013 by | Category: Writing

Grammar and English skill doesn’t make you write good, nor does not knowing no grammar make you write bad neither. Words is not good nor neither is they bad and grammar is rules for words and nobody that isn’t ‘with it’ nowadays does not believe that rules is not meant to be broken. Writing is an art like painting is an art and you can paint a painting nowadays by squirting paint on a canvas on the ground and riding on a bicycle over the paint and there was that art lecturer, destructive art, that was digging a hole in a concrete floor in a plastic suit and calling it art. So there is no rules in art and literature is art and grammar is rules and one of them is as far east as the other is as far west as far as art is concerned and as far as writing style is concerned because there is a difference between painting and writing the only thing that matters are that what you write was understood and the under standing was what you intended it will be.

I expect you read that paragraph with more attention and interest than you gave to most paragraphs in article. You probably under stood it as fully as you did any of the others, too. Is it then good English?

One of the things that is most insisted upon in books on how to write is that the style should be clear and direct. The whole aim of Sir Ernest Gowers books, that were commissioned by the Treasury, was to try to persuade civil servants to learn how to write in a style that had these two characteristics. And yet if you try to read a document drawn up by the most expert lawyers, you will frequently find yourself at a loss to under stand what is meant even though the document is concerned with nothing more complicated than whether such or such a simple object is or is not subject to purchase tax. Again, if you pick up an academic journal dealing such ordinary matters as how a child gets on with his brothers and sisters, you may find yourself overwhelmed with words you do not understand. Has it not, after all, been said that a psychologist is one who tells you what you already knew in language you do not understand?

The plain fact is that ‘good style’ in writing cannot be precisely defined. A style that is fitting, and therefore ‘good’, for one purpose may be unsuitable for another and vice versa, and a style that was regarded as ‘good’ a hundred years ago would not necessarily be regarded as ‘good’ to day. –

‘Good for what?’ That is more to the point than ‘good’ by itself.

‘Drinka winta pinta’ would not be regarded as good by a teacher who wants her pupils to spell correctly, but apparently somebody thinks it good for selling milk. The first paragraph in this article breaks the accepted rules of-grammar right, left and centre, but in my opinion it does the job I want it to do. That deliberately odd way of writing suits the topic the paragraph is dealing with.

That being said, it is still true that a clear, direct style of writing is best for most purposes most of the time. So you are not wasting your energies if you concentrate on learning to write as clearly as possible.

It would be a bit naive for me to leave things just like that, however. It’s all very well for the text books to go on year after year extolling the virtues of a clear, direct style of writing, while all around us we see writers of all kinds apparently trying to get as far away as possible from simple English. The advertising copy-writer does not say that Antigua is an island in the Caribbean but that it floats there like a biscuit in wine; the sports writer is not content to say that a winger has excellent ball control but calls him ‘that touch-line professor with the intellectual feet’ and there is a great amount of writing nowadays that seems to conceal more than it reveals. There is this to be said, however, about concentrating on acquiring a clear style of writing: the discipline of doing so gives you a considerable amount of insight into the whole business of communication and enables you to see through the verbiage of others rather better than you might otherwise do.

Exercise:

Read the following passage carefully and comment on its style and content. Compare what you say with what I say at the end of this article.

‘There are non-social restraints which make it difficult or even impossible to change one’s ability. These non-social restraints are largely absent for opinions.

‘If a person changes his mind about some thing, deserts one belief in favor of another, there is no further difficulty in the way of con summating the change. It is true that there are sometimes considerable difficulties in getting someone to change his mind concerning an opinion or belief. Such resistance may arise because of consistency with other opinions or beliefs, personality characteristics that make a person lean in one direction or another, and the like. But the point to be stressed is that once these resistances are overcome there is no further restraint which would make it difficult for the change to become effective.

‘There are generally strong non-social restraints, however, against changing one’s ability, or changing one’s performance which reflects that ability. Even if a person is convinced that he should be able to run faster or should be more intelligent, and even if he is highly motivated to improve his ability in this respect, there are greater difficulties in the way of consummating the change.’

Answer:

This is sheer verbiage.

If it has any meaning at all, it is that you can change your opinions more easily than you can change your ability.

The passage, however, does not begin to be good and skilled in English if ‘good’ is defined S being ‘direct. English’. For example, the first paragraph says. in effect that though sometimes is it difficult for a person to change his opinions, once he has changed them, he hasn’t any difficulty. And what on earth does that mean?

If the second paragraph meant that you can’t add an inch to your stature by taking thought, and it seems to mean something like that, then I’d understand it. But as it is written, it makes me look for facts that will contradict it, e.g. if I am convinced I ought to be able to type faster, then I set about practicing, and eventually do type faster.

Writing of this kind is so irritating to a reader who has disciplined himself to clear writing style that even when the writer has something to say it will not be listened to.’

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