Monday, October 18, 2004

prompt #4

It was funny to read my classmates blog-thoughts about The Elements of Style and Style, Toward Clarity and Grace. I kept looking for someone to disagree with- thinking it would the assignment a little easier- but, for the most part, we all seem to have similar responses to the readings.

Two of the blogs that stuck out in my mind were the third entries from lara and andy.
Lara wrote that Strunk and White’s “ideas of style could be argued” and said that she “didn’t think style is something that can be so defined.” In saying this I think she touches on the fundamental problem with the Strunk and White book, but one which it could be argued that they were actually aware of. See, when I first started comparing the two books, I was sort-of mad at Strunk and White and the overbearing power/ego trip that is their book. It was clear that some of the rules were merely their own preferences, and even the rules that seemed true lacked the kind of explanation that would help a writer work the rule into their actual writing process. A good example is the Strunk and White rule “omit needless words.”(23) This broad idea is given less than a page of explanation, whereas the Williams book tackles the problem of wordiness from every possible angle. While reading the Williams book might seem tedious at times but he explains his rules in a way that allows actual meaning to seep into our weary brains. If we’re lucky they could even show up in our writing eventually. Strunk and White seem to have made only a half-hearted attempt to tell us why their rules are important and offer little practical advice on how to follow them. Williams seems to understand the seems to understand “Style” as something that cannot be clearly defined, as Lara said, and offers us guidelines and advice on how to be good writers. With every rule he allows for times when the rule should be broken. Andy wrote that he liked how Willimas “tells you why certain rules are preferred.” It’s like Williams read the Strunk and White book, had the same reaction as Lara, and then decided to write a new and better book. Still, I think we have to consider the title of Strunk and Whites book, The Elements of Style. I think the key word here is “elements.” Strunk and Whites rules are like building blocks, and Williams is the castle you can build out of them.


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